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Life on the Mississippi 





Mississippi Steamboat of Fifty Years Ago. 

[Sold by Subscription only.] 




WE k?^THCA«0l^ 

Copyright, 1874 and 1875, 
By H. O. Houghton and Company. 

Copyright, 1883, 
By Samuel L. Clemens. 

All rights reserved. 

H X BY ^g 


Mark Twain. 

[trade mark.] 

University Press : 
John Wilson and Son, Cambridge 


BUT the basin of the Mississippi is the Body of the Nation. 
All the other parts are but members, important in themselves, yet 
more important in their relations to this. Exclusive of the Lake basin 
and of 300,000 square miles in Texas and New Mexico, which in many 
aspects form a part of it, this basin contains about 1,250,000 square 
miles. In extent it is the second great valley of the world, being 
exceeded only by that of the Amazon. The valley of the frozen Obi 
approaches it in extent; that of the La Plata comes next in space, 
and probably in habitable capacity, having about f of its area; then 
comes that of the Yenisei, with about ^ ; the Lena, Amoor, Hoang-ho, 
Yang-tse-kiang, and Nile, f ; the Ganges, less than \ ; the Indus, 
less than \; the Euphrates, \; the Rhine, -fa. It exceeds in extent 
the whole of Europe, exclusive of Russia, Norway, and Sweden. // 
would contain Austria four times, Germany or Spain five times, 
France six times, the British Islands or Italy ten times. Conceptions 
formed from the river-basins of Western Europe are rudely shocked 
when we consider the extent of the valley of the Mississippi ; nor 
are those formed from the sterile basins of the great rivers of Siberia, 
the lofty plateaus of Central Asia, or the mighty sweep of the swampy 
Amazon more adequate. Latitude, elevation, and rainfall all combine 
to render every part of the Mississippi Valley capable of supporting 
a dense population. As a dwelling-place for civilized man it is by 
far the first upon our globe. — Editor's Table, Harper's Magazine, 
February, 1863. 



The Mississippi is Well worth Reading about. — It is Remarkable. — In- 
stead'of Widening towards its Mouth, it grows Narrower. — It Empties 
four hundred and six million Tons of Mud. — It was First Seen in 1542. 

— It is Older than some Pages in European History. — De Soto has 
the Pull. — Older than the Atlantic Coast. — Some Half-breeds chip 
in.— La Salle Thinks he will Take a Hand 21 


La Salle again Appears, and so does a Cat-fish. — Buffaloes also. — 
Some Indian Paintings are Seen on the Rocks. — "The Father of 
Waters " does not Flow into the Pacific. — More History and Indians. 

— Some Curious Performances — not Early English. — Natchez, or 

the Site of it, is Approached 31 


A little History. — Early Commerce. — Coal Fleets and Timber Rafts. — 
We start on a Voyage. — I seek Information. — Some Music. — The 
Trouble begins. — Tall Talk. — The Child of Calamity. — Ground 
and lofty Tumbling. — -The Wash-up. — Business and Statistics. — 
Mysterious Band. — Thunder and Lightning. — The Captain speaks. 

— Allbright weeps. — The Mystery settled. — Chaff. — I am Dis- 
covered. — Some Art-work proposed. — I give an Account of Myself. — 
Released 40 


The Boys' Ambition. — Village Scenes — Steamboat Pictures. — A 

Heavy Swell. — A Runaway 62 

A Traveller. — A Lively Talker. — A Wild-cat Victim 70 



Besieging the Pilot. — Taken along.— Spoiling a Nap. — Fishing for a 

Plantation. — " Points " on the River. — A Gorgeous Pilot-house . . 79 


River Inspectors. — Cottonwoods and Plum Point. — Hat-Island Cross- 
ing. — Touch and Go. — It is a Go. — A Lightning Pilot .... 91 


A Heavy-loaded Big Gun. — Sharp Sights in Darkness. — Abandoned to 

his Fate. — Scraping the Banks. — Learn him or Kill him .... 102 


Shake the Reef. — Reason Dethroned. — The Face of the Water. — 

A Bewitching Scene. — Romance and Beauty 112 


Putting on Airs. — Taken down a bit. — Learn it as it is. — The River 

Rising 122 


In the Tract Business. — Effects of the Rise. — Plantations gone. — A 
Measureless Sea. — A Somnambulist Pilot. — Supernatural Piloting. 
— Nobody there. — All Saved - 132 


Low Water. — Yawl sounding. — Buoys and Lanterns. — Cubs and 

Soundings. — The Boat Sunk. — Seeking the Wrecked 143 


A Pilot's Memory. — Wages soaring. — A Universal Grasp. — Skill and 
Nerve. — Testing a " Cub." — "Back her for Life." — A Good Les- 
son 152 


Pilots and Captains. — High-priced Pilots. — Pilots in Demand. — A 

Whistler. — A cheap Trade. — Two-liundred-and-fif ty-dollar Speed . 166 



New Pilots undermining the Pilots' Association. — Crutches and Wages. 
— Putting on Airs. — The Captains Weaken. — The Association 
Laughs. — The Secret Sign. — An Admirable System. — Rough on 
Outsiders. — A Tight Monopoly. — No Loophole. — The Railroads 
and the War 176 


All Aboard. — A Glorious Start. — Loaded to Win. — Bands and Bugles. 

— ' Boats and Boats. — Racers and Racing . 193 


Cut-offs. — Ditching and Shooting. — Mississippi Changes. — A Wild 
Night. — Swearing and Guessing. — Stephen in Debt. — He Confuses 
his Creditors. — He makes a New Deal. — Will Pay them Alpha- 
betically 205 


Sharp Schooling. — Shadows. — I am Inspected. — Where did you get 
them Shoes ? — Pull her Down. — I want to kill Brown. — I try to run 
her. — I am Complimented 217 


A Question of Veracity. — A Little Unpleasantness. — I have an Audi- 
ence with the Captain. — Mr. Brown Retires 227 


I become a Passenger. — We hear the News. — A Thunderous Crash. — 
They Stand to their Posts. — In the Blazing Sun. — A Grewsome 
Spectacle. — His Hour has Struck 236 

I get my License. — The War Begins. — I become a Jack-of-all-trades . 246 


I try the Alias Business. — Region of Goatees. — Boots begin to Appear. — 
The River Man is Missing. — The Young Man is Discouraged. — 
Specimen Water. — A Fine Quality of Smoke. — A Supreme Mistake. 
— We Inspect the Town. — Desolation Way-traffic. — A Wood-yard . 247 



Old French Settlements. — We start for Memphis. — Young Ladies and 

Russia-leather Bags 258 


I receive some Information. — Alligator Boats. — Alligator Talk. — She 

was a Rattler to go. — I am Found Out .' . . . 264 

The Devil's Oven and Table. — A Bombshell falls. — No Whitewash. — 
Thirty Years on the River. — Mississippi Uniforms. — Accidents and 
Casualties. — Two hundred Wrecks. — A Loss to Literature. — Sunday- 
Schools and Brick Masons 273 

War Talk. — I Tilt over Backwards. — Fifteen Shot-holes. — A Plain 
Story. — Wars and Feuds. — Darnell ve7-sus Watson. — A Gang and 
a Woodpile. — Western Grammar. — River Changes. — New Madrid. 

— Floods and Falls 281 

Tourists and their Note-hooks. — Captain Hall. — Mrs. Trollope's Emo- 
tions. — Hon. Charles Augustus Murray's Sentiment. — Captain 
Marryat's Sensations. — Alexander Mackay's Feelings. — Mr. Park- 
man Reports 292 

Swinging down the River. — Named for Me. — Plum Point again. — 
Lights and Snag Boats. — Infinite Changes. — A Lawless River. — 
Changes and Jetties. — Uncle Mumford Testifies. — Pegging the 
River. — What the Government does. — The Commission Men and 
Theories. " Had them Bad." — Jews and Prices 298 

Murel's Gang. — A Consummate Villain. — Getting Rid of Witnesses. — 
Stewart turns Traitor. — I Start a Rebellion. — I get a New Suit of 
Clothes. — We Cover our Tracks. — Pluck and Capacity. — A Good 
Samaritan City. — The Old and the New 311 

A Melancholy Picture. — On the Move. — River Gossip. — She Went By 
a-Sparklin'. — Amenities of Life. — A World of Misinformation. — 
Eloquence of Silence. — Striking a Snag. — Photographically Exact. 

— Plank Side-walks 325 



Mutinous Language. — The Dead-house. — Cast-iron German and Flex- 
ible English. — A Dying Man's Confession. — I am Bound and 
Gagged. — I get Myself Free. — I Begin my Search. — The Man with 
one Thumb. — Red Paint and White Paper. — He Dropped on his 
Knees. — Fright and Gratitude. — I Fled through the Woods. — A 
Grisly Spectacle. — Shout, Man, Shout. — A look of Surprise and Tri- 
umph. — The Muffled Gurgle of a Mocking Laugh. — How strangely 
'firings happen. — The Hidden Money 337 


Ritter's Narrative. — A Question of Money. — Napoleon. — Somebody 

is Serious. — Where the Prettiest Girl used to Live 357 


A Question of Division. — A Place where there was no License. — The 
Calhoun Land Company. — A Cotton-planter's Estimate. — Halifax 
and Watermelons. — Jewelled-up Bar-keepers 364 


An Austere Man. — A Mosquito Policy. — Facts dressed in Tights. — A 

swelled Left Ear 372 


Signs and Scars. — Cannon-thunder Rages. — Cave-dwellers, — A Con- 
tinual Sunday. — A ton of Iron and no Glass. — The Ardent is Saved. 

— Mule Meat — A National Cemetery. — A Dog and a Shell. — Rail- 
roads and Wealth. — Wharfage Economy. — Vicksburg versus The 

" Gold Dust." — A Narrative in Anticipation 375 


The Professor Spins a Yarn. — An Enthusiast in Cattle. — He makes a 
Proposition. — Loading Beeves at Acapulco. — He was n't Raised to it. 

— He is Roped In. — His Dull Eyes Lit Up. — Four Aces, you Ass ! — 

He does n't Care for the Gores 387 


A Terrible Disaster. — The " Gold Dust " explodes her Boilers. — The 

End of a Good Man 397 



Mr. Dickens has a Word. — Best Dwellings and their Furniture. — Albums 
and Music. — Pantelettes and Conch-shells. — Sugar-candy Rabbits 
and Photographs. — Horse-hair Sofas and Snuffers. — Rag Carpets 
and Bridal Chambers 399 


Rowdies and Beauty. — Ice as Jewelry. — Ice Manufacture. — More Sta- 
tistics. — Some Drummers. — Oleomargarine versus Butter. — Olive 
Oil versus Cotton Seed. — The Answer was not Caught. — A Terrific 
Episode. — A Sulphurous Canopy. — The Demons of War. — The 
Terrible Gauntlet .408 


In Flowers, like a Bride. — A White-washed Castle. — A Southern Pros- 
pectus. — Pretty Pictures. — An Alligator's Meal 416 


The Approaches to New Orleans. — A Stirring Street. — Sanitary Im- 
provements. — Journalistic Achievements. — Cisterns and Wells . . 422 


Beautiful Grave-yards. — Chameleons and Panaceas. — Inhumation and 

Infection. — Mortality and Epidemics. — The Cost of Funerals . . 430 


I meet an Acquaintance. — Coffins and Swell Houses. — Mrs. O'Flaherty 
goes One Better. — Epidemics and Embamming. — Six hundred for a 
Good Case. — Joyful High Spirits 436 


French and Spanish Parts of the City. — Mr. Cable and the Ancient 
Quarter. — Cabbages and Bouquets. — Cows and Children. — The 
Shell Road. — The West End. — A Good Square Meal. — The Pom- 
pano. — The Broom-Brigade. — Historical Painting. — Southern 
Speech. — Lagniappe 442 


" Wa w " Talk. — Cock-Fighting. — Too Much to Bear. —Fine Writing. 

— Mule Racing 454 


Mardi-Gras. — The Mystic Crewe. — Rex and Relics. — Sir Walter Scott. 

— A World Set Back. — Titles and Decorations. — A Change . . 465 

Uncle Remus. — The Children Disappointed. — We Read Aloud. — Mr. 
Cable and Jean ah Poquelin. — Involuntary Trespass. — The Gilded 
Age. — An Impossible Combination. — The Owner Materializes — 
and Protests 471 

Tight Curls and Springy Steps. — Steam-plows. — " No. I." Sugar. — A 
Frankenstein Laugh. — Spiritual Postage. — A Place where there are 
no Butchers or Plumbers. — Idiotic Spasms . 475 

Pilot-Farmers. — Working on Shares. — Consequences. — Men who Stick 

to their Posts. — He saw what he would do. — A Day after the Fair . 486 

A Patriarch. — Leaves from a Diary. — A Tongue-stopper. — The An- 
cient Mariner. — Pilloried in Print. — Petrified Truth 493 

A Fresh " Cub " at the Wheel. — A "Valley Storm. — Some Remarks on 
Construction. — Sock and Buskin. — The Man who never played 
Hamlet. — I got Thirsty. — Sunday Statistics 500 

I Collar an Idea. — A Graduate of Harvard. — A Penitent Thief. — His 
Story in the Pulpit. — Something Symmetrical. — A Literary Artist. 

— A Model Epistle. — Pumps again Working. — The " Nub " of the 
Note 509 

A Masterly Retreat. — A Town at Rest. — Boyhood's Pranks. — Friends 
of my Youth. — The Refuge for Imbeciles. — I am Presented with 
my Measure 523 

A Special Judgment. — Celestial Interest. — A Night of Agony. — An- 
other Bad Attack. — I become Convalescent. — I address a Sunday- 
school. — A Model Boy 530 


A second Generation. — A hundred thousand Tons of Saddles. — A Dark 
and Dreadful Secret. — A Large Family. — A Golden-haired Darling. 

— The Mysterious Cross. — My Idol is Broken. — A Bad Season of 
Chills and Fever. — An Interesting Cave 540 

Perverted History. — A Guilty Conscience. — A Supposititious Case. — A 

Habit to be Cultivated. — I Drop my Burden. — Difference in Time . 548 

A Model Town. — A Town that Comes up to Blow in the Summer. — The 
Scare-crow Dean. — Spouting Smoke and Flame. — An Atmosphere 
that tastes good. — The Sunset Land 555 

An Independent Race. — Twenty-four-hour Towns. — Enchanting Sce- 
nery. — The Home of the Plow. — Black Hawk. — Fluctuating Se- 
curities. — A Contrast. — Electric Lights 564 


Indian Traditions and Rattlesnakes. — A Three-ton Word. — Chimney 
Rock. — The Panorama Man. — A Good Jump. — The Undying Head. 

— Peboan and Seegwun 573 

The Head of Navigation. — From Roses to Snow. — Climatic Vaccina- 
tion. — A Long Ride. — Bones of Poverty. — The Pioneer of Civiliza- 
tion. — Jug of Empire. — Siamese Twins. — The Sugar-bush. — He 
Wins his Bride. — The Mystery about the Blanket. — A City that is 
always a Novelty. — Home again 582 


A 505 

B 605 

C 608 

D 612 


1. The " Baton Rouge " Frontispiece 

2. Mississippi Steamboat op Fifty Years Ago Titlepage 

3. View on the River 21 

4. A High-water Sketch 22 

5. La Salle Canoeing 24 

6. De Soto Sees It 25 

7. Classifying their Offspring 27 

8. Burial of De Soto 28 

9. Canadian Indians 29 

10. Crossing the Lakes 32 

11. Anchored in the Stream 33 

12. Hospitably Received 34 

13. La Salle on the Ice 38 

14. Consecrating the Robbery 37 

15. The Temple Wall 38 

16. Early Navigation 40 

17. A Lumber Rapt 42 

18. I Swum along the Raft 43 

19. He Jumped up in the Air 45 

20. Went around in a Circle 46 

21. He Knocked them Sprawling - 48 

22. »An Old-fashioned Breakdown 49 

23. The Mysterious Barrel , 51 

24. Soon there was a Regular Storm 53 

25. The Lightning Killed Two Men 55 

26. Grabbed the Little Child .56 

27. Ed got up Mad .57 

28. Who are you ?..... 58 

29. Charles William Allbright, Sir .60 

30. Overboard .61 

31. Our Permanent Ambition .62 

32. Water-Street Clerks .63 

33. All Go Hurrying to the Wharf 64 

34. The Town Drunkard Asleep Once More 66 

35. A Shining Hero 68 

36. Day Dreams 69 

37. Bored with Travelling 71 

38. Tell Me where it is — I 'll fetch it 73 

39. Sublime in Profanity 75 

40. His Tears Dripped upon the Lantern 77 

41. The Chalk Pipe . 78 

42. He Easily Borrowed Six Dollars 80 


43. Besieging the Pilot 81 

44. This is Nine-mile Point 82 

45. Come ! turn out 83 

46. A Minute Later .... 84 

47. You 're a Smart One ... 86 

48. Get a Memorandum Book ... 87 

49. A Sumptuous Temple 89 

50. River Inspectors 92 

51. A Tangled Knot 94 

52. Insensibly they Drew Together 96 

53. Stand By, now ! 98 

54. Over She Goes ! 99 

55. Shoulder to Shoulder 101 

56. Loading and Firing 102 

57. Changing Watch 105 

58. All Well but Me 107 

59. Learning the River 109 

60. Learn Me or Kill Me Ill 

61. That 's a Reef 113 

62. Set Her Back 114 

63. Mr. Blxby Stepped into View 117 

64. I Stood Like One Bewitched 120 

65. Sunset Views 121 

66. Wearing a Toothpick 123 

67. Do You see that Stump ? 124 

68. The Orator of the Scow 127 

69. Drifting Logs 129 

70. Gambling down Below 131 

71. Tract Distributing 133 

72. Yellow-faced Miserable* 135 

73. On a Shoreless Sea 137 

74. The Phantom Assumed the Wheel 139 

75. Nobody there 140 

76. Dark Piloting 142 

77. Sounding 143 

78. Oh, how Awful! • 147 

79. Hauled Aboard 150 

80. On Soundings 151 

81. A City Street 153 

82. Let a Leadsman cry, " Half Twain '. " 155 

83. On, I Knew Him ! 156 

84. So Full of Laugh ! 157 

85. Scared to Death 160 

86. Where is Mr. Bixby ? 161 

87. If You Love Me, Back Her! 164 

88. Back her, back her ! 165 

89. Very Brief Authority 167 

90. Treated with Marked Deference 168 

91. You Take My Boat 170 

92. No Foolin'! 171 

93. Went to Whistling 173 

94. Burst into a Fury 177 

95. Resurrected Pilots 179 

96. The Captain Stormed 182 

97. The Sign of Membership 183 

98. Posting His Report 1S6 


99. Added to the Fold 188 

100. A Justifiable Advance 190 

101. Tow-boat Supremacy 192 

102. Steamboat Time 195 

103. Drowsy Engineers 197 

104. Brass Bands Bray 199 

105. ( The Parting Chorus 201 

106. Race op the Lee and the Natchez ; 204 

107. Dangerous Ditching 206 

108. A Scientist 207 

109. Deluged and Careened 209 

110. The Spectre Steamer 211 

111. My, What a Race 1 'ye Had ! . 213 

112. Beaming Benignantly 215 

113. The Debt-Payer 216 

114. Pilot Brown 218 

115. Are You Horace Bigsby's Cub ? 21!) 

116. Hold up Your Foot 220 

117. Take That Ice-Pitcher 221 

118. Poll Her Down 222 

119. I Killed Brown Every Night 224 

120. Hurled Me Across the House 225 

121. Killing Brown 220 

122. I Hit Brown a Good Honest Blow 229 

123. The Racket Had brought Everybody to the Deck 231 

124. So You have been Fighting ! 232 

125. An Emancipated Slave 234 

126. Music and Games 235 

127. Henry and I sat Chatting 237 

128. Emptying the Wood-flat 238 

129. The Explosion — A Startled Barber 239 

130. Ealer Saves His Flute 240 

131. The Fire Drove the Axemen Away 242 

132. The Hospital Ward 244 

133. The Land of full Goatees 248 

134. Station Loafers 249 

135. Under an Alias 250 

136. Do You Drink this Slush? 251 

137. Sound-asleep Steamboats 254 

138. Dead past Resurrection 255 

139. The Wood-yard Man 257 

140. Waiting for a Trip 259 

141. The Electric Light 260 

142. A Landing 261 

143. A Close Inspection . 262 

144. Empty Wharves : Wharf Hands " Full " 263 

145. Showing the Bells 265 

146. An Alligator Boat 266 

147. Alligator Pilots ... 267 

148. The Sacred Bird 269 

149. Counting the Vote 270 

150. Here, You Take Her 272 

151. Grand Tower 273 

152. A Dairy Farm 275 

153. Threw the Preacher Overboard 277 

154. Illinois Ground 279 



155. His Maiden Battle 281 

156. Mighty Warm Times 282 

157. Where did Yon See that Fight ? 284 

158. Darnell vs. Watson 285 

159. They Kept on Shooting 287 

160. Island No. 10 289 

161. Flood on the River 290 

162. Inundation Scenes 291 

163. A Dismal Witness 293 

164. The Lonely River .297 

165. The Steamer " Mark Twain " 298 

166. A Government Lamp 299 

167. Snags 300 

168. Running in a Fog 301 

169. Uncle Mumford 305 

170. Talking over the Situation 308 

171. The Tow 310 

172. A Soul-moving Villain 312 

173. Selling the Negro 313 

174. Concealed in the Brake 314 

175. A Man came in Sight 316 

176. I Shot Him through the Head 317 

177. Another Victim 319 

178. Pleasantly Situated 320 

179. Memphis — A Landing Stage 322 

180. Natives at Dinner 324 

181. A Light-keeper 325 

182. Negro Travellers 327 

183. Any Boat gone up? * 328 

184. A World of Misinformation 330 

185. A Fatal Blow 332 

186. Elaborate Style 333 

187. Napoleon in 1871 337 

188. The Man's Eyes opened slowly 340 

189. They rummaged the Cabin 342 

190. On the Right Track 345 

191. Thumb-Prints 346 

192. He dropped on his Knees 347 

193. The Tragedy 349 

194. In the Morgue 350 

195. I sat down by him 353 

196. The Shadow of Doom 356 

197. We began to cool off 358 

198. Ain't that so, Thompson? 359 

199. He is Happy where He is 360 

200. Warmed up into a Quarrel 361 

201. Napoleon as it is 363 

202. Caving Banks 365 

203. The Commission Dealer 367 

204. The Israelite 368 

205. The Barkeeper 369 

206. A Plain Gill 370 

207. A " Watirmcluon " 371 

208. Mosquitoes 372 

209. A Bad Ear 373 

210. Fanning Himself 374 


211. Vicksburg 375 

212. Thb River was Undisturbed 377 

213. The Cave Dwellers 378 

214. Bringing the Children 380 

215. Wait and Make Certain 381 

216. Mule Meat 383 

217. Native Wild-woods 384 

218. My Promenade 388 

219. A Short Stout Bag 390 

220. The Door was A-crack 392 

221. Five Hundred Better 393 

222. Been Laying for you Duffers 395 

223. A Winning Hand 396 

224. An Explosion 398 

225. An Interior 401 

226. Cleansing Themselves 405 

227. Soap and Brushes 407 

228. Natchez 409 

229. Drummers 411 

230. Smell Them, Taste Them 413 

231. On- and Oleo 415 

232. Columbia Female Institute 417 

233. The Graceful Palmetto 420 

234. High Water 422 

235. The Wharves 423 

236. Canal Street 425 

237. West End 428 

238. The Cemetery 430 

239. Immortelles . 431 

240. Chameleons 432 

241. Relics 434 

242. Funeral Wreaths 435 

243. He Chuckled 436 

244. Why, Just Look at it ! 437 

245. Ambition 439 

246. An Explanation 440 

247. The St. Charles Hotel 443 

248. The Shell Road 445 

249. Spanish Fort 446 

250. The Broom Brigade 447 

251. " Whah You was ? " 449 

252. For Lagniappe 45i 

253. Lagniappe 453 

254. " Waw " Talk 455 

255. Cock-pit 457 

256. Guests 460 

257. Absence of Harmony 462 

258. Collision 463 

259. Mardi-Gras . . . » 466 

260. Chivalry 468 

261. Uncle Remus 472 

262. We Read Aloud 473 

263. A River Landing 474 

264. The Captain 477 

265. Pilot Town 480 

266. Smoke and Gosstp 48] 


267. Thb Interview 484 

268. Boat-travellers 485 

269. Over the Breastboard 488 

270. Thornborgh's Cub 490 

271. He Cldng to a Cotton-bale 491 

272. A Chill Fell There 495 

273. Sellers's Monument 498 

274. The Night Approach 499 

275. I am Anxious About the Time 501 

276. Stage-struck , 504 

277. Look here, Have You got that Drink yet? 506 

278. Tools op the Trade 508 

279. Williams Plies His Trade 511 

280. He Pulled some Leather 512 

281. The Crisis 513 

282. Mission Work 516 

283. Williams 519 

284. The Days of Long Ago 525 

285. A Practical Joke 528 

286. Fools for St. Louis 529 

287. I sat up in Bed Quaking 531 

288. All Right, Dutchy — Go Ahead 534 

289. We all Flew Home 536 

290. Random Rubbish 539 

291. The Consecrated Knife 543 

292. A Cheap and Pitiful Ruin 545 

293. A Bad Case op Shakes 546 

294. Shaken Down 547 

295. I Tamper with My Conscience 550 

296. My Burden is Lifted 553 

297. Bad Dreams 554 

298. Henry Clay Dean 557 

399. The House Began to Break into Applause 559 

300. A Former Resident 562 

301. An Independent Race 564 

302. The Man With a Trade-mark 567 

303. Majestic Bluffs 569 

304. " Nuth'n," says Smith 570 

305. Steamer at Night 572 

306. Queen's Bluff 573 

307. Chimney Rock 575 

308. The Maiden's Rock 576 

309. The Lecturer 578 

310. St. Paul 582 

311. An Early Postmaster 585 

312. The First Arrival 587 

SiB. Minneapolis and the Falls of St. Anthony 588 

314. The Mixture 591 

315. An Arkansas River Post Office «. 593 

316. Indian Ornaments 624 




THE Mississippi is well worth reading about. It is not a 
commonplace river, but on the contrary is in all ways 
remarkable. Considering the Missouri its main branch, it is 
the longest river in the world — four thousand three hundred 

miles. It seems safe to say 
that it is also the crookedest river in 
the world, since in one part of its jour- 
ney it uses up one thousand three hun- 
dred miles to cover the same ground that the 
crow would fly over in six hundred and seventy-five. It dis- 
charges three times as much water as the St. Lawrence, 
twenty-five times as much as the Rhine, and three hundred 



and thirty-eight times as much as the Thames. No other 
river has so vast a drainage-basin : it draws its water supply 
from twenty-eight States and Territories ; from Delaware, on 
the Atlantic seaboard, and from all the country between that 
and Idaho on the Pacific slope — a spread of forty-five 
degrees of longitude. The Mississippi receives and carries 
to the Gulf water from fifty-four subordinate rivers that are 
navigable by steamboats, and from some hundreds that 
are navigable by flats and keels. The area of its drainage- 
basin is as great as the combined areas of England, Wales, 
Scotland, Ireland, France, Spain, Portugal, Germany, Austria, 
Italy, and Turkey ; and almost all this wide region is fertile ; 
the Mississippi valley, proper, is exceptionally so. 


It is a remarkable 
river in this : that in- 
stead of widening to- 
ward its mouth, it grows 

narrower ; grows narrower and deeper. From the junction 
of the Ohio to a point half way down to the sea, the width 
averages a mile in high water : thence to the sea the width 
steadily diminishes, until, at the " Passes," above the mouth, 


it is but little over half a mile. At the junction of the Ohio 
the Mississippi's depth is eighty-seven feet ; the depth 
increases gradually, reaching one hundred and twenty- 
nine just above the mouth. 

The difference in rise and fall is also remarkable — not in 
the upper, but in the lower river. The rise is tolerably 
uniform down to Natchez (three hundred and sixty miles 
above the mouth) — about fifty feet. But at Bayou La 
Fourche the river rises only twenty-four feet ; at New Orleans 
only fifteen, and just above the mouth only two and one 

An article in the New Orleans " Times-Democrat," based 
upon reports of able engineers, states that the river annually 
empties four hundred and six million tons of mud into the 
Gulf of Mexico — which brings to mind Captain Marry at' s 
rude name for the Mississippi — " the Great Sewer." This 
mud, solidified, would make a mass a mile square and two 
hundred and forty-one feet high. 

The mud deposit gradually extends the land — but only 
gradually ; it has extended it not quite a third of a mile in 
the two hundred years which have elapsed since the river 
took its place in history. The belief of the scientific people 
is, that the mouth used to be at Baton Rouge, where the hills 
cease, and that the two hundred miles of land between there 
and the Gulf was built by the river. This gives us the 
age of that piece of country, without any trouble at all — 
one hundred and twenty thousand years. Yet it is much 
the youthfulest batch of country that lies around there 

The Mississippi is remarkable in still another way — its 
disposition to make prodigious jumps by cutting through 
narrow necks of land, and thus straightening and shortening 
itself. More than once it has shortened itself thirty miles 
at a single jump ! These cut-offs have had curious effects : 
they have thrown several river towns out into the rural 
districts, and built up sand bars and forests in front of them. 



The town of Delta used to be three miles below Vicksburg : 
a recent cut-off has radically changed the position, and Delta 
is now two miles above Vicksburg. 

Both of these river towns have been retired to the country 
by that cut-off 1 . A cut-off plays havoc with boundary lines 
and jurisdictions : for instance, a man is living in the State 
of Mississippi to-day, a cut-off occurs to-night, and to-morrow 
the man finds himself and his land over on the other side of 
the river, within the boundaries and subject to the laws 
of the State of Louisiana ! Such a thing, happening in the 
upper river in the old times, could have transferred a slave 
from Missouri to Illinois and made a free man of him. 

The Mississippi does not alter its locality by cut-offs alone : 
it is always changing its habitat bodily — is always moving 

bodily sidewise. At Hard Times, 

La., the river is two miles west of the region it used to 
occupy. As a result, the original site of that settlement is 
not now in Louisiana at all, but on the other side of the 



river, in the State of Mississippi. Nearly the whole of that 
one thousand three hundred miles of old Mississippi River 
which La Salle floated down in his canoes, two hundred years 
ago, is good solid dry ground now. The river lies to the 
right of it, in places, and to the left of it in other places. 

Although the Mississippi's mud builds* land but slowly, 
down at the mouth, where the Gulf's billows interfere with 
its work, it builds fast enough in better protected regions 
higher up : for instance, Prophet's Island contained one 
thousand five hundred acres of land thirty years ago ; since 
then the river has added seven hundred acres to it. 

But enough of these examples of the mighty stream's 
eccentricities for the present — I will give a few more of 
them further along in the book. 

Let us drop the Mississippi's physical history, and say 
a word about its historical history — so to speak. We can 

glance briefly at its 
slumbrous first 
epoch in a couple 
of short chapters ; 
at its second and 
wider-awake epoch 

in a couple more ; at its 

flushest and widest-awake epoch in a good many succeed- 


ing chapters ; and then talk about its comparatively 
tranquil present epoch in what shall be left of the 

The world and the books are so accustomed to use, and 
over-use, the word "new" in connection with our country, 
that we early get Tmd permanently retain the impression that 
there is nothing old about it. We do of course know that 
there are several comparatively old dates in American his- 
tory, but the mere figures convey to our minds no just 
idea, no distinct realization, of the stretch of time which 
they represent. To say that De Soto, the first white man 
who ever saw the Mississippi River, saw it in 1542, is a 
remark which states a fact without interpreting it : it is 
something like giving the dimensions of a sunset by astro- 
nomical measurements, and cataloguing the colors by their 
scientific names ; — as a result, you get the bald fact of the 
sunset, but you don't see the sunset. It would have been 
better to paint a picture of it. 

The date 1542, standing by itself, means little or nothing 
to us ; but when one groups a few neighboring historical 
dates and facts around it, he adds perspective and color, 
and then realizes that this is one of the American dates 
which is quite respectable for age. 

For instance, when the Mississippi was first seen by a 
white man, less than a quarter of a century had elapsed 
since Francis I.'s defeat at Pavia ; the death of Raphael ; 
the death of Bayard, sans peur et sans reproche ; the driving- 
out of the Knights-Hospitallers from Rhodes by the Turks ; 
and the placarding of the Ninety-Five Propositions, — the 
act which began the Reformation. When De Soto took his 
glimpse of the river, Ignatius Loyola was an obscure 
name ; the order of the Jesuits was not yet a year old ; 
Michael Angelo's paint was not yet dry on the Last Judg- 
ment in the Sistine Chapel ; Mary Queen of Scots was not 
yet born, but would be before the year closed. Catherine 
de Medici was a child; Elizabeth of England was not yet 



In her teens ; Calvin, Benvenuto Cellini, and the Emperor 
Charles V. were at the top of their fame, and each was 
manufacturing history after his own peculiar fashion ; 
Margaret of Navarre was writing the " Heptameron " and 
some religious books, — the first survives, the others are for- 
gotten, wit and indelicacy being sometimes better literature- 
preservers than holiness ; lax court morals and the absurd 
chivalry business were in full feather, and the joust and the 
tournament were the frequent pastime of titled fine gentle- 
men who could fight better than they could spell, while 
religion was the passion of their ladies, and the classifying 
their offspring into children of full rank and children by 

brevet their pastime. In 
fact, all around, religion 
was in a peculiarly bloom- 
ing condition : the 
_____ Council of Trent 

was being 



called ; the Spanish Inquisition was 

roasting, and racking, and burning, with a 

free hand; elsewhere on the continent the nations were 

being persuaded to holy living by the sword and fire ; in 

England, Henry VIII. had suppressed the monasteries, burnt 

Fisher and another bishop or two, and was getting his 



English reformation and his harem effectively started. 
When De Soto stood on the banks of the Mississippi, it 
was still two years before Luther's death ; eleven years 
before the burning of Servetus ; thirty years before the 
St. Bartholomew slaughter ; Rabelais was not yet published ; 
" Don Quixote " was not yet written ; Shakspeare was not 
yet born ; a hundred long years must still elapse before 
Englishmen would hear the name of Oliver Cromwell. 

Unquestionably the discovery of the Mississippi is a 
datable fact which considerably mellows and modifies the 


shiny newness of our country, and gives her a most respect- 
able outside-aspect of rustiness and antiquity. 

De Soto merely glimpsed the river, then died and was 
buried in it by his priests and soldiers. One would expect 
the priests and the soldiers to multiply the river's dimensions 
by ten — the Spanish custom of the day — and thus move 
other adventurers to go at once and explore it. On the con- 
trary, their narratives when they reached home, did not 



excite that amount of curiosity. The Mississippi was left 
unvisited by whites during a term of years which seems 
incredible in our energetic days. One may " sense " the 
interval to his mind, after a fashion, by dividing it up in 
this way : After De Soto glimpsed the river, a fraction short 
of a quarter of a century elapsed, and then Shakspeare was 
born ; lived a trifle more than half a century, then died ; 
and when he had been in his grave considerably more than 
half a century, the second white man saw the Mississippi. 
In our day we don't allow a hundred and thirty years to 


elapse between glimpses of a marvel. If somebody should 
discover a creek in the county next to the one that the North 
Pole is in, Europe and America would start fifteen costly 
#expeditions thither : one to explore the creek, and the other 
fourteen to hunt for each other. 

For more than a hundred and fifty years there had been 
white settlements on our Atlantic coasts. These people 
were in intimate communication with the Indians : in the 


south the Spaniards were robbing, slaughtering, enslaving 
and converting them ; higher up, the English were trading 
beads and blankets to them for a consideration, and throw- 
ing in civilization and whiskey, "for lagniappe j" 1 and in 
Canada the French were schooling them in a rudimentary 
way, missionarying among them, and drawing whole popu- 
lations of them at a time to Quebec, and later to Montreal, 
to buy furs of them. Necessarily, then, these various clus- 
ters of whites must have heard of the great river of the far 
west ; and indeed, they did hear of it vaguely, — so vaguely 
and indefinitely, that its course, proportions, and locality 
were hardly even guessable. The mere mysteriousness of 
the matter ought to have fired curiosity and compelled 
exploration ; but this did not occur. Apparently nobody 
happened to want such a river, nobody needed it, nobody 
was curious about it ; so, for a century and a half the Mis- 
sissippi remained out of the market and undisturbed. When 
De Soto found it, he was not hunting for a river, and had 
no present occasion for one ; consequently he did not value 
it or even take any particular notice of it. 

But at last La Salle the Frenchman conceived the idea of 
seeking out that river and exploring it. It always happens 
that when a man seizes upon a neglected and important idea,, 
people inflamed with the same notion crop up all around. 
It happened so in this instance. 

Naturally the question suggests itself, Why did these people 
want the river now when nobody had wanted it in the five 
preceding generations ? Apparently it was because at this 
late day they thought they had discovered a way to make it 
useful ; for it had come to be believed that the Mississippi 
emptied into the Gulf of California, and therefore afforded 
a short cut from Canada to China. Previously th'e suppo- 
sition had been that it emptied into the Atlantic, or Sea of 

1 See page 450. 



LA SALLE himself sued for certain high privileges, and 
they were graciously accorded him by Louis XIV. of 
inflated memory. Chief among them was the privilege to 
explore, far and wide, and build forts, and stake out conti- 
nents, and hand the same over to the king, and pay the 
expenses himself ; receiving, in return, some little advantages 
of one sort or another ; among them the monopoly of buffalo 
hides. He spent several years and about all of his money, 
in making perilous and painful trips between Montreal and a 
fort which he had built on the Illinois, before he at last suc- 
ceeded in getting his expedition in such a shape that he 
could strike for the Mississippi. 

And meantime other parties had had better fortune. In 
1673 Joliet the merchant, and Marquette the priest, crossed 
the country and reached the banks of the Mississippi. They 
went by way of the Great Lakes ; and from Green Bay, in 
canoes, by way of Fox River and the Wisconsin. Marquette 

i had solemnly contracted, on the feast of the Immaculate 
Conception, that if the Virgin would permit him to discover 
the great river, he would name it Conception, in her honor. 
He kept his word. In that day, all explorers travelled with 
an outfit of priests. Be Soto had twenty-four with him. La 
Salle had several, also. The expeditions were often out of 

! meat, and scant of clothes, but they always had the furniture 
and other requisites for the mass; they were always pre- 
pared, as one of the quaint chroniclers of the time phrased 
it, to " explain hell to the salvages." 



On the 17th of June, 1673, the canoes of Joliet and Mar- 
quette and their five subordinates reached the junction of 
the Wisconsin with the Mississippi. Mr. Parkman says : 
"Before them a wide and rapid current coursed athwart 
their way, by the foot of lofty heights wrapped thick in 
forests." He continues : " Turning southward, they paddled 
down the stream, through a solitude unrelieved by the faint- 
est trace of man." 


A big cat-fish collided with Marquette's canoe, and startled 
him ; and reasonably enough, for he had been warned by the 
Indians that he was on a foolhardy journey, and even a fatal 
one, for the river contained a demon " whose roar could be 
heard at a great distance, and who would engulf them in the 
abyss where he dwelt." I have seen a Mississippi cat-fish 
that was more than six feet long, and weighed two hundred 
and fifty pounds ; and if Marquette's fish was the fellow to 



that one, he had a fair right to think the river's roaring 
demon was come. 

" At length the buffalo began to appear, grazing in herds 
on the great prairies which then bordered the river; and 
Marquette describes the fierce and stupid look of the old 
bulls as they stared at the intruders through the tangled 
mane which nearly blinded them." 

The voyagers moved cautiously : " Landed at night and 
made a fire to cook their evening meal ; then extinguished 


it, embarked again, paddled some way farther, and anchored 
in the stream, keeping a man on the watch till morning." 

They did this day after day and night after night ; and 
at the end of two weeks they had not seen a human being. 
The river was an awful solitude, then. And it is now, over 
most of its stretch. 

But at the close of the fortnight they one day came upon 
the footprints of men in the mud of the western bank — a 
Robinson Crusoe experience which carries an electric shiver 
with it yet, when one stumbles on it in print. They had 
been warned that the river Indians were as ferocious and 




pitiless as the river demon, and destroyed all comers without 
waiting for provocation ; but no matter, Joliet and Marquette 
struck into the country to hunt up the proprietors of the 
tracks. They found them, by and by, and were 

hospitably received and well treated — if to * be re- 

ceived by an Indian chief who has taken lAi.lll off his 


last rag in order to appear at 
his level best is to be received hos- 
pitably : and if to be treated abundantly 
to fish, porridge, and other game, including dog, and have 
these things forked into one's mouth by the ungloved fingers 
of Indians is to be well treated. In the morning the chief 
and six hundred of his tribesmen escorted the Frenchmen 
to the river and bade them a friendly farewell. 

On the rocks above the present city of Alton they found 
some rude and fantastic Indian paintings, which they 
describe. A short distance below " a torrent of yellow mud 
rushed furiously athwart the calm blue current of the Mis- 


sissippi, boiling and surging and sweeping in its course logs, 
branches, and uprooted trees." This was the mouth of the 
Missouri, " that savage river," which " descending from its 
mad career through a vast unknown of barbarism, poured its 
turbid floods into the bosom of its gentle sister." 

By and by they passed the mouth of the Ohio ; they passed 
canebrakes ; they fought mosquitoes ; they floated along, day 
after day, through the deep silence and loneliness of the river, 
drowsing in the scant shade of makeshift awnings, and broil- 
ing with the heat ; they encountered and exchanged civilities 
with another party of Indians ; and at last they reached the 
mouth of the Arkansas (about a month out from their start- 
ing-point), where a tribe of war-whooping savages swarmed 
out to meet and murder them ; but they appealed to the Vir- 
gin for help ; so in place of a fight there was a feast, and 
plenty of pleasant palaver and fol-de-rol. 

They had proved to their satisfaction, that the Missis- 
sippi did not empty into the Gulf of California, or into the 
Atlantic. They believed it emptied into the Gulf of Mexico. 
They turned back, now, and carried their great news to 

But belief is not proof. It was reserved for La Salle to 
furnish the proof. He was provokingly delayed, by one mis- 
fortune after another, but at last got his expedition under 
way at the end of the year 1681. In the dead of winter he 
and Henri de Tonty, son of Lorenzo Tonty, who invented the 
tontine, his lieutenant, started down the Illinois, with a fol- 
lowing of eighteen Indians brought from New England, and 
twenty-three Frenchmen. They moved in procession down 
the surface of the frozen river, on foot, and dragging their 
canoes after them on sledges. 

At Peoria Lake they struck open water, and paddled thence 
to the Mississippi and turned their prows southward. They 
ploughed through the fields of floating ice, past the mouth of 
the Missouri ; past the mouth of the Ohio, by and by ; " and, 
gliding by the wastes of bordering swamp, landed on the 24th 



of February near the Third Chickasaw Bluffs," where they 
halted and built Fort Prudhomme. 

" Again," says Mr. Parkman, " they embarked ; and with 
every stage of their adventurous progress, the mystery of 
this vast new world was more and more unveiled. More and 
more they entered the realms of spring. The hazy sunlight, 
the warm and drowsy air, the tender foliage, the opening 
flowers, betokened the reviving life of nature." 


Day by day they floated down the great bends, in the 
shadow of the dense forests, and in time arrived at the 
mouth of the Arkansas. First, they were greeted by 
the natives of this locality as Marquette had before been 
greeted hy them — with the booming of the war drum and 
the flourish of arms. The Virgin composed the difficulty in 
Marquette's case ; the pipe of peace did the same office for 
La Salle. The white man and the red man struck hands and 
entertained each other during three days. Then, to the 



admiration of the savages, La Salle set up a cross with the 
arms of France on it, and took possession of the whole coun- 
try for the king — the cool fashion of the time — while the 
priest piously consecrated the robbery with a hymn. The 
priest explained the mysteries of the faith " by signs," for 
the saving of the savages ; thus compensating them with pos- 


sible possessions in Heaven for the certain ones on earth 
which they had just been robbei of. And also, by signs, 
La Salle drew from these simple children of the forest 
acknowledgments of fealty to Louis the Putrid, over the 
water. Nobody smiled at these colossal ironies. 

These performances took place on the site of the future 



town of Napoleon, Arkansas, and there the first confiscation- 
cross was raised on the banks of the great river. Marquette's 
and Joliet's voyage of discovery ended at the same spot — 
the site of the future town of Napoleon. When De Soto 
took his fleeting glimpse of the river, away back in the 
dim early days, he took it from that same spot — the site 


of the future town of Napoleon, 
Arkansas. Therefore, three out of the 
four memorable events connected with the discovery and ex- 
ploration of the mighty river occurred, by accident, in one 
and the same place. It is a most curious distinction, when 
one comes to look at it and think about it. France stole 
that vast country on that spot, the future Napoleon ; and 
by and by Napoleon himself was to give the country back 
again ! — make restitution, not to the owners, but to their 
white American heirs. 

The voyagers journeyed on, touching here and there ; 
" passed the sites, since become historic, of Vicksburg and 
Grand Gulf;" and visited an imposing Indian monarch in 


the Teche country, whose capital city was a substantial one 
of sun-baked bricks mixed with straw — better houses than 
many that exist there now. The chief's house contained an 
audience room forty feet square ; and there he received Tonty 
in State, surrounded by sixty old men clothed in white cloaks. 
There was a temple in the town, with a mud wall about it 
ornamented with skulls of enemies sacrificed to the sun. 

The voyagers visited the Natchez Indians, near the site of 
the present city of that name, where they found a " religious 
and political despotism, a privileged class descended from 
the sun, a temple and a sacred fire." It must have been like 
getting home again ; it was home with an advantage, in fact, 
for it lacked Louis XIV. 

A few more days swept swiftly by, and La Salle stood in 
the shadow of his confiscating cross, at the meeting of the 
waters from Delaware, and from Itaska, and from the moun- 
tain ranges close upon the Pacific, with the waters of the 
Gulf of Mexico, his task finished, his prodigy achieved. Mr. 
Parkman, in closing his fascinating narrative, thus sums up : 

" On that day, the realm of France received on parchment a stu- 
pendous accession. The fertile plains of Texas ; the vast basin of 
the Mississippi, from its frozen northern springs to the sultry bor- 
ders of the Gulf ; from the woody ridges of the Alleghanies to the 
bare peaks of the Rocky Mountains — a region of savannas and 
forests, sun-cracked deserts and grassy prairies, watered by a thou- 
sand rivers, ranged by a thousand warlike tribes, passed beneath the 
sceptre of the Sultan of Versailles ; and all by virtue of a feeble 
human voice, inaudible at half a mile." 



APPARENTLY the river was ready for business, now. 
But no, the distribution of a population along its 
banks was as calm and deliberate and time-devouring a 
process as the discovery and exploration had been. 



Seventy years elapsed, 
after the exploration, be- 
fore the river's borders had 
a white population worth considering; and nearly fifty more 
before the river had a commerce. Between La Salle's open- 
ing of the river and the time when it may be said to have 
become the vehicle of anything like a regular and active 
commerce, seven sovereigns had occupied the throne of 


England, America had become an independent nation, Louis 
XIV. and Louis XV. had rotted and died, the French mon- 
archy had gone down in the red tempest of the revolution, 
and Napoleon was a name that was beginning to be talked 
about. Truly, there were snails in those days. 

The river's earliest commerce was in great barges — keel- 
boats, broadhorns. They floated and sailed from the upper 
rivers to New Orleans, changed cargoes there, and were 
tediously warped and poled back by hand. A voyage down 
and back sometimes occupied nine ' months. In time this 
commerce increased until it gave employment to hordes of 
rough and hardy men ; rude, uneducated, brave, suffering 
terrific hardships with sailor-like stoicism ; heavy drinkers, 
coarse frolickers in moral sties like the Natchez-under-the- 
hill of that day, heavy fighters, reckless fellows, every one, 
elephantinely jolly, foul-witted, profane ; prodigal of their 
money, bankrupt at the end of the trip, fond of barbaric 
finery, prodigious braggarts ; yet, in the main, honest, trust- 
worthy, faithful to promises and duty, and often picturesquely 

By and by the steamboat intruded. Then, for fifteen or 
twenty years, these men continued to run their keelboats 
down-stream, and the steamers did all of the up-stream 
business, the keelboatmen selling their boats in New Orleans, 
and returning home as deck passengers in the steamers. 

But after a while the steamboats so increased in number 
and in speed that they were able to absorb the entire com- 
merce ; and then keelboating died a permanent death. The 
keelboatman became a deck hand, or a mate, or a pilot on 
the steamer ; and when steamer-berths were not open to 
him, he took a berth on a Pittsburgh coal-flat, or on a pine- 
raft constructed in the forests up toward the sources of the 

In the heyday of the steamboating prosperity, the river 
from end to end was flaked with coal-fleets and timber rafts, 
all managed by hand, and employing hosts of the rough 



characters whom I have been trying to describe. I remem- 
ber the annual processions of mighty rafts that used to glide 
by Hannibal when I was a boy, — an acre or so of white, 
sweet-smelling boards in each raft, a crew of two dozen men 
or more, three or four wigwams scattered about the raft's 
vast level space for storm-quarters, — and I remember the 
rude ways and the tremendous talk of their big crews, the 
ex-keelboatmen and their admiringly patterning successors ; 
for we used to swim out a quarter or third of a mile and get 
on these rafts and have a ride. 




By way of illustrating keelboat talk and manners, and 
that now-departed and hardly-remembered raft-life, I will 
throw in, in this place, a chapter from a book which I have 
been working at, by fits and starts, during the past five or 
six years, and may possibly finish in the course of five or six 
more. The book is a story which details some passages in 
the life of an ignorant village boy, Huck Finn, son of the 
town drunkard of my time out west, there. He has run 
away from his persecuting father, and from a persecuting 
good widow who wishes to make a nice, truth-telling, respect- 
able boy of him ; and with him a slave of the widow's has 



also escaped. They have found a fragment of a lumber raft 
(it is high water and dead summer time), and are floating- 
down the river by night, and hiding in the willows by day, — 
bound for Cairo, ■ — whence the negro will seek freedom in 
the heart of the free States. But in a fog, they pass Cairo 
without knowing it. By and by they begin to suspect the 
truth, and Huck Finn is persuaded to end the dismal sus- 
pense by swimming down to a huge raft which they have 
seen in the distance ahead of them, creeping aboard under 
cover of the darkness, and gathering the needed information 
by eavesdropping : — 

But you know a young person can't wait very well when he is 
impatient to find a thing out. We talked it over, and by and by 
Jim said it was such a black night, now, that it would n't be no risk 


to swim down to the big 
raft and crawl aboard and 
listen, — they would talk about Cairo, because they would be calcu- 
lating to go ashore there for a spree, maybe, or anyway they would 
send boats ashore to buy whiskey or fresh meat or something. Jim 
had a wonderful level head, for a nigger : he could most always 
start a good plan when you wanted one. 

I stood up and shook my rags off and jumped into the river, and 
struck out for the raft's light. By and by, when I got down nearly 


to her, I eased up and went slow and cautious. But everything was 
all right — nobody at the sweeps. So I swum down along the raft 
till I was most abreast the camp fire in the middle, then 1 crawled 
aboard and inched along and got in amongst some bundles of shin- 
gles on the weather side of the fire. There was thirteen men there 
— they was the watch on deck of course. And a mighty rouEjh- 
looking lot, too. They had a jug, and tin cups, and they kept the 
jug moving. One man was singing — roaring, you may say; and 
it wasn't a nice song — for a parlor anyway. He roared through 
his nose, and strung out the last word of every line very long. 
When he was done they all fetched a kind of Injun war-whoop, 
and then another was sung. It begun : — 

" There was a woman in our towdn, 
In our towdn did dwed'l (dwell,) 
She loved her husband dear-i-lee, 
But another man twyste as wed'l. 

Singing too, riloo, riloo, riloo, 

Ri-too, riloo, rilay - - - e, 
She loved her husband dear-i-lee, 

But another man twyste as wed'l." 

And so on — fourteen verses. It was kind of poor, and when he 
was going to start on the next verse one of them said it was the 
tune the old cow died on ; and another one said, " Oh, give Us a 
rest." And another one told him to take a walk. They made 
fun of him till he got mad and jumped up and begun to cuss the 
crowd, and said he could lam any thief in the lot. 

They was all about to make a break for him, but the biggest 
man there jumped up and says : — 

" Set whar you are, gentlemen. Leave him to me ; he 's my 

Then he jumped up in the air three times and cracked his heels 
together every time. He flung off a buckskin coat that was all 
hung with fringes, and says, " You lay thar tell the chawin-up 's 
done ; " and flung his hat down, which was all over ribbons, and 
says, " You lay thar tell his sufferins is over." 

Then he jumped up in the air and cracked his heels together 
again and shouted out : — 

" Whoo-oop ! I 'm the old original iron-jawed, brass-mounted, 



copper-bellied corpse-maker from the wilds of Arkansaw ! — Look 
at me ! I 'm the man they call Sudden Death and General Desola- 
tion ! Sired by a hurricane, dam'd by an earthquake, half-brother 
to the cholera, nearly related to the small-pox on the mother's side ! 
Look at me ! I take nineteen alligators and a bar'l of whiskey for 

breakfast when I 'm in ro- 
bust health, and a bushel of rattle- 
snakes and a dead body when I 'm ailing ! 
I split the everlasting rocks with my glance, 
and I squench the thunder when I speak ! Whoo-oop ! Stand back 
and give me room according to my strength ! Blood 's my natural 
drink, and the wails of the dying is music to my ear ! Cast your 
eye on me, gentlemen ! — and lay low end hold your breath, for 
I 'm bout to turn myself loose ! " 

All the time he was getting this off, he was shaking his head and 
looking fierce, and kind of swelling around in a little circle, tucking 
up his wrist-bands, and now and then straightening up and beating 



his breast with, his fist, saying, " Look at me, gentlemen ! " When 
he got through, he jumped up and cracked his heels together three 
times, and let off a roaring " whoo-oop ! I 'm the bloodiest son of 
a wildcat that lives ! " 

Then the man that had started the row tilted his old slouch hat 
down over his right eye ; then he bent stooping forward, with his back 

sagged and his south end 
sticking out far, and his fists 
a-shoving out and drawing in 
in front of him, and so went 
around in a little circle about 
three times, swelling himself 
up and breathing hard. Then 
he straightened, and jumped 
up and cracked his heels to- 
gether three times before he 
lit again (that made them 
cheer), and he begun to shout 
like this : — 

" Whoo-oop ! bow your neck 
and spread, for the kingdom 
of sorrow 's a-coming ! Hold 
me down to the earth, for I 
feel my powers a-working ! 
whoo-oop ! I 'm a child of 
sin, don't let me get a start ! 
Smoked glass, here, for all ! 
Don't attempt to look at me 
with the naked eye, gentle- 
men ! When I 'm playful I 
use the meridians of longi- 
tude and parallels of latitude 
for a seine, and drag the Atlantic Ocean for whales ! I scratch 
my head with the lightning and purr myself to sleep with the 
thunder ! When I 'm cold, I bile the Gulf of Mexico and bathe in 
it ; when I 'm hot I fan myself with an equinoctial storm ; when 
I 'm thirsty I reach up and suck a cloud dry like a sponge ; when 
I range the earth hungry, famine follows in my tracks ! Whoo- 



oop ! Bow your neck and spread ! I put my hand on the sun's 
face and make it night in the earth ; I bite a piece out of the 
moon and hurry the seasons ; I shake myself and crumble the 
mountains ! Contemplate me through leather — don't use the naked 
eye ! I 'm the man with a petrified heart and biler-iron bowels ! 
The massacre of isolated communities is the pastime of my idle 
moments, the destruction of nationalities the serious business of 
my life ! The boundless vastness of the great American desert is 
my enclosed property, and I bury my dead on my own premises ! " 
He jumped up and cracked his heels together three times before he 
lit (they cheered him again), and as he come down he shouted out: 
" Whoo-oop ! bow your neck and spread, for the pet child of calam- 
ity 's a-coming ! " 

Then the other one went to swelling around and blowing again — 
the first one — the one they called Bob ; next, the Child of Calamity 
chipped in again, bigger than ever ; then they both got at it at the 
same time, swelling round and round each other and punching their 
fists most into each other's faces, and whooping and jawing like 
Injuns ; then Bob called the Child names, and the Child called 
him names back again : next, Bob called him a heap rougher names 
and the Child come back at him with the very worst kind of lan- 
guage ; next, Bob knocked the Child's hat off, and the Child picked 
it up and kicked Bob's ribbony hat about six foot ; Bob went and 
got it and said never mind, this war n't going to be the last of this 
thing, because he w'as a man that never forgot and never forgive, 
and so the Child better look out, for there was a time a-coming, 
just as sure as he was a living man, that he would have to answer 
to him with the best blood in his body. The Child said no man 
was willinger than he was for that time to come, and he would 
give Bob fair warning, now, never to cross his path again, for he 
could never rest till he had waded in his blood, for such was his 
nature, though he was sparing him now on account of his family, 
if he had one. 

Both of them was edging away in different directions, growling 
and shaking their heads and going on about what they was going to 
do ; but a little black-whiskered chap skipped up and says : — 

" Come back here, you couple of chicken-livered cowards, and I '11 
thrash the two of ye ! " 



And he done it, too. He snatched them, he jerked them this 
way and that, he booted them around, he knocked them sprawling 
faster than they could get up. Why, it war n't two minutes till they 
begged like dogs — and how the other lot did yell and laugh and 
clap their hands all the way through, and shout " Sail in, Corpse- 

Ml?)> . !)<-'! 


Maker ! " " Hi ! at him again, Child of Calamity ! " " Bully for you, 
little Davy ! " Well, it was a perfect pow-wow for a while. Bob 
and the Child had red noses and black eyes when they got through. 
Little Davy made them own up that they was sneaks and cowards 
and not fit to eat with a dog or drink with a nigger ; then Bob and 
the Child shook hands with each other, very solemn, and said they 



had always respected each other and was willing to let bygones be 
bygones. So then they washed their faces in the river ; and just 
then there was a loud order to stand by for a crossing, and some of 
them went forward to man the sweeps there, and the rest went aft 
to handle the after-sweeps. 

I laid still and waited for fifteen minutes, and had a smoke out of 
a pipe that one of them left in reach ; then the crossing was finished, 


and they stumped back and had a drink around and went to talking 
and singing again. Next they got out an old fiddle, and one 
played, and another patted juba, and the rest turned themselves 
loose on a regular old-fashioned keel-boat break-down. They 
couldn't keep that up very long without getting winded, so by and 
by they settled around the jug again. 

They sung " jolly, jolly raftsman's the life for me," with a rousing 
chorus, and then they got to talking about differences betwixt hogs, 
and their different kind of habits ; and next about women and their 



different ways ; and next about the best ways to put out houses that 
was afire ; and next about what ought to be done with the Injuns ; 
and next about what a king had to do, and how much he got ; 
and next about how to make cats fight ; and next about what to 
do when a man has fits ; and next about differences betwixt clear- 
water rivers and muddy-water ones. The man they called Ed said 
the muddy Mississippi water was wholesomer to drink than the 
clear water of the Ohio ; he said if you let a pint of this yaller 
Mississippi water settle, you would have about a half to three 
quarters of an inch of mud in the bottom, according to the stage of 
the river, and then it war n't no better then Ohio water — what 
you wanted to do was to keep it stirred up — and when the river 
was low, keep mud on hand to put in and thicken the water up the 
way it ought to be. 

The Child of Calamity said that was so ; he said there was nutri- 
tiousness in the mud, and a man that drunk Mississippi water could 
grow corn in his stomach if he wanted to. He says : — 

" You look at the graveyards ; that tells the tale. Trees won't 
grow worth shucks in a Cincinnati graveyard, but in a Sent Louis 
graveyard they grow upwards of eight hundred foot high. It 's all 
on account of the water the people drunk before they laid up. A 
Cincinnati corpse don't richen a soil any." 

And they talked about how Ohio water did n't like to mix with 
Mississippi water. Ed said if you take the Mississippi on a rise 
when the Ohio is low, you '11 find a wide band of clear water all the 
way down the east side of the Mississippi for a hundred mile or 
more, and the minute you get out a quarter of a mile from shore 
and pass the line, it is all thick and yaller the rest of the way across. 
Then they talked about how to keep tobacco from getting mouldy, 
and from that they went into ghosts and told about a lot that other 
folks had seen ; but Ed saj^s : — 

" Why don't you tell something that you 've seen yourselves ? 
Now let me have a say. Five years ago I was on a raft as big as 
this, and right along here it was a bright moonshiny night, and I 
was on watch and boss of the stabboard oar forrard, and one of my 
pards was a man named Dick Allbright, and he come along to where 
I was sitting, forrard — gaping and stretching, he was — and 
stooped down on the edge of the raft and washed his face in the 



river, and come and set down by me and got out his pipe, and had 
just got it filled, when he' looks up and says, — 

" ' Why looky-here,' he says, ' ain't that Buck Miller's place, over 
yander in the bend ? ' 

" ' Yes,' says I, ' it is — why ? ' He laid his pipe down and leant 
his head on his hand, and says, — 

" ' I thought we 'd be furder down.' I says, — 

" ' I thought it too, when I went off watch ' — we was standing 
six hours on and six off — 'but the boys told me,' I says, ' that the 
raft didn't seem to hard- 
ly move, for the last 
hour,' — says I, ' though 
she 's a slipping along 
all right, now,' says I. 
He give a kind of a 
groan, and says, — 

" ' I 've seed a raft act 
so before, along here,' 
he says, ' 'pears to me 
the current has most 
quit above the head of 
this bend durin' the last 
two years,' he says. 

"Well, he raised up 
two or three times, and 
looked away off and 
around on the water. 
That started me at it, 
too. A body is always 
doing what he sees 

somebody else doing, though there mayn't be no sense in it. 
Pretty soon I see a black something floating on the water away off 
to stabboard and quartering behind us. I see he was looking at 
it, too. I says, — 

" ' What 's that ? ' He says, sort of pettish, — 

" ' Tain't nothing but an old empty bar'L' 

" ' An empty bar'l ! ' says I, ' why,' says I, ' a spy-glass is a fool 
to your eyes. How can you tell it 's an empty bar'l ? ' He says, — 



" ' I don't know ; I reckon it ain't a bar'l, but I thought it might 
be,' says he. 

" ' Yes,' I says, ' so it might be, and it might be anything else, 
too ; a body can't tell nothing about it, such a distance as that,' I 

" We had n't nothing else to do, so we kept on watching it. By 
and by I says, — 

" ' Why looky-here, Dick Allbright, that thing 's a-gaining on us, 
I believe.' 

" He never said nothing. The thing gained and gained, and I 
judged it must be a dog that was about tired out. Well, we swung 
down into the crossing, and the thing floated across the bright streak 
of the moonshine, and, by George, it was a bar'l. Says I, — 

" ' Dick Allbright, what made you think that thing was a bar'l, 
when it was a half a mile off,' says I. Says he, — 

" ' I don't know.' Says I, — 

" ' You tell me, Dick Allbright.' He says, — 

" ' Well, I knowed it was a bar'l ; I 've seen it before ; lots has 
seen it ; they says it 's a hanted bar'l.' 

" I called the rest of the watch, and they come and stood there, 
and I told them what Dick said. It floated right along abreast, 
now, and did n't gain any more. It was about twenty foot off. 
Some was for having it aboard, but the rest did n't want to. Dick 
Allbright said rafts that had fooled with it had got bad luck by it. 
The captain of the watch said he did n't believe in it. He said he 
reckoned the bar'l gained on us because it was in a little better cur- 
rent than what we was. He said it would leave by and by. 

" So then we went to talking about other things, and we had a 
song, and then a breakdown ; and after that the captain of the 
watch called for another song ; but it was clouding up, now, and 
the bar'l stuck right thar in the same place, and the song didn't 
seem to have much warm-up to it, somehow, and so they did n't 
finish it, and there war n't any cheers, but it sort of dropped flat, 
and nobody said anything for a minute. Then everybody tried to 
talk at once, and one chap got off a joke, but it war n't no use, 
they did n't laugh, and even the chap that made the joke did n't 
laugh at it, which ain't usual. We all just settled down glum, and 
watched the bar'l, and was oneasy and oncomfortable. Well, sir, it 



shut down black and still) and then the wind begin to moan around, 
and next the lightning begin to play and the thunder to grumble. 
And pretty soon there was a regular storm, and in the middle of 
it a man that was running aft stumbled and fell and sprained his 
ankle so that he had to lay up. This made the boys shake their 
heads. And every time the lightning come, there was that bar'l 
with the blue lights winking around it. We was always on the 


look-out for it. But by and by, towards dawn, she was gone. When 
the day come we could n't see her anywhere, and we war n't sorry, 

" But next night about half-past nine, when there was songs and 
high jinks going on, here she comes again, and took her old roost 
on the stabboard side. There war n't no more high jinks. Every- 
body got solemn ; nobody talked ; you could n't get anybody to do 


anything but set around moody and look at the bar'l. It begun to 
cloud up again. When the watch changed, the off watch stayed up, 
'stead of turning in. The storm ripped and roared around all night, 
and in the middle of it another man tripped and sprained his ankle, 
and had to knock off. The bar'l left towards day, and nobody see 
it go. 

" Everybody was sober and down in the mouth all day. I don't 
mean the kind of sober that comes of leaving liquor alone, — not 
that. They was quiet, but they all drunk more than usual, — not 
together, — but each man sidled off and took it private, by himself. 

" After dark the off watch did n't turn in ; nobody sung, nobody 
talked ; the boys did n't scatter around, neither ; they sort of huddled 
together, forrard ; and for two hours they set there, perfectly still, 
looking steady in the one direction, and heaving a sigh once in a 
while. And then, here comes the bar'l again. She took up her 
old place. She staid there all night ; nobody turned in. The storm 
come on again, after midnight. It got awful dark ; the rain poured 
down ; hail, too ; the thunder boomed and roared and bellowed ; the 
wind blowed a hurricane ; and the lightning spread over everything 
in big sheets of glare, and showed the whole raft as plain as day ; 
and the river lashed up white as milk as far as you could see for 
miles, and there was that bar'l jiggering along, same as ever. The 
captain ordered the watch to man the after sweeps for a crossing, 
and nobody would go, — no more sprained ankles for them, they 
said. They would n't even walk aft. Well then, just then the sky 
split wide open, with a crash, and the lightning killed two men of 
the after watch, and crippled two more. Crippled them how, says 
you ? Why, sprained their ankles ! 

" The bar'l left in the dark betwixt lightnings, towards dawn. 
Well, not a body eat a bite at breakfast that morning. After that 
the men loafed around, in twos and threes, and talked low together. 
But none of them herded with Dick Allbright. They all give him 
the cold shake. If he come around where any of the men was, they 
split up and sidled away. They would n't man the sweeps with him. 
The captain had all the skiffs hauled up on the raft, alongside of 
his wigwam, and would n't let the dead men be took ashore to be 
planted ; he did n't believe a man that got ashore would come back ; 
and he was risdit. 



" After night come, you could see pretty plain that there was 
going to be trouble if that bar'l come again ; there was such a 
muttering going on. A good many wanted to kill Dick Allbright, 
because he'd seen the bar'l on other trips, and that had an ugly 
look. Some wanted to put him 
ashore. Some said, let 's all go 
ashore in a pile, if the bar'l 
comes again. 

" This kind of whispers was 
still going on, the men being 
bunched together forrard 
watching for the bar'l, when, 
lo and behold you, here she 
comes again. Down she comes, 
slow and steady, and settles 
into her old tracks. You could 
a heard a pin drop. Then up 
comes the captain, and says : — 

" ' Boys, don't be a pack of 
children and fools ; I don't 
want this bar'l to be dogging 
us all the way to Orleans, and 
you don't; well, then, how's 
the best way to stop it ? Burn 
it up, — that 's the way. I 'm 
going to fetch it aboard,' he 
says. And before anybody 
could say a word, in he went. 

" He swum to it, and as he 
come pushing it to the raft, 
the men spread to one side. 
But the old man got it aboard 

and busted in the head, and there was a baby in it ! Yes sir, a 
stark naked baby. It was Dick Allbright's baby ; he owned up 
and said so. 

" ' Yes,' he says, a-leaning over it, ' yes, it is my own lamented 
darling, my poor lost Charles William Allbright deceased,' says he, 
— for he could curl his tongue around the bulliest words in the lan- 




guage when he was a mind to, and lay them hefore you without a 
jint started, anywheres. Yes, lie said he used to live up at the head 
of this bend, and one night he choked his child, which was crying, 
not intending to kill it, — which was prob'ly a lie, — and then he was 

scared, and buried it in 
a bar'l, before his wife 
got home, and off he 
went, and struck the 
northern trail and went 
to rafting ; and this was 
the third year that the 
bar'l had chased him. 
He said the bad luck al- 
ways begun light, and 
lasted till four men was 
killed, and then the bar'l 
did n't come any more 
after that. He said if 
the men w'ould stand it 
one more night, — and 
was a-going on like that, 
— but the men had got 
enough. They started to 
get out a boat to take 
him ashore and lynch 
him, but he grabbed the 
little child all of a sud- 
den and jumped over- 
board with it hugged up 
to his breast and shed- 
ding tears, and we never see him again in this life, poor old suffer- 
ing soul, nor Charles William neither." 

" Who was shedding tears ? " says Bob ; " was it Allbright or the 
baby ? " 

" Why, Allbright, of course ; didn't I tell you the baby was dead ? 
Been dead three years — how could it cry ? " 

" Well, never mind how it could cry — how could it keep all that 
time ? " says Davy. " You answer me that." 




" I don't know how it done it," says Ed. " It done it though — 
that 's all I know about it." 

" Say — what did they do with the bar'l ? " says the Child of 

"Why, they hove it overboard, and it sunk like a chunk of 

" Edward, did the child look like it was choked ? " says one. 

" Did it have its hair parted ? " says another. 

"What was the brand on that bar'l, Eddy?" says a fellow they 
called Bill. 

"Have you got the papers for 
them statistics, Edmund ? " says 

" Say, Edwin, was you one of 
the men that was killed by the 
lightning ? " says Davy. 
"Him? O, no, he was both of 'em," says Bob. Then they all 

" Say, Edward, don't you reckon you 'd better take a pill ? You 
look bad — don't you feel pale? " says the Child of Calamity. 

" O, Come, now, Eddy," says Jimmy, " show up ; you must a kept 



part of that bar'l to prove the thing by. Show us the bunghole — 
do — and we '11 all believe you." 

" Say, boys," says Bill, " less divide it up. Thar 's thirteen of us. 
I can swaller a thirteenth of the yarn, if you can worry down the 

Ed got up mad and said / —'"'.' 

they could all go to some 
place which he 
ripped out pretty 
savage, and then 
walked off aft 
cussing to himself, 
and they yelling 


and jeering at him, and roaring and 
laughing so you could hear them a 

" Boys, we '11 split a watermelon 

on that," says the Child of Calamity ; 

and he come rummaging around in the dark amongst the shingle 

bundles where I was, and put his hand on me. I was warm and 

soft and naked ; so he says " Ouch ! " and jumped back. 

" Fetch a lantern or a chunk of fire here, boys — there 's a snake 
here as big as a cow ! " 

So they run there with a lantern and crowded up and looked in 
on me. 

" Come out of that, you beggar ! " says one. 

" Who are you ? " says another. 

" What are you after here ? Speak up prompt, or overboard you 


" Snake him out, boys. Snatch him out by the heels." 

I began to beg, and crept out amongst them trembling. They 
looked me over, wondering, and the Child of Calamity says : — 

" A cussed thief ! Lend a hand and less heave him overboard ! " 

" No," says Big Bob, " less get out the paint-pot and paint him 
a sky blue all over from head to heel, and then heave him over ! " 

" Good ! that 's it. Go for the paint, Jimmy." 

When the paint come, and Bob took the brush and was just 
going to begin, the others laughing and rubbing their hands, I begun 
to cry, and that sort of worked on Davy, and he says : — 

" 'Vast there ! He 's nothing but a cub. I '11 paint the man that 
fetches him ! " 

So I looked around on them, and some of them grumbled and 
growled, and Bob put down the paint, and the others did n't take it 

" Come here to the fire, and less see what you 're up to here," 
says Davy. " Now set down there and give an account of yourself. 
How long have you been aboard here ? " 

" Not over a quarter of a minute, sir," says I. 

" How did you get dry so quick ? " 

" I don't know, sir. I 'm always that way, mostly." 

" Oh, you are, are you ? What 's your name ? " 

I war n't going to tell my name. I did n't know what to say, so 
I just says : 

" Charles William Allbright, sir." 

Then they roared — the whole crowd ; and I was mighty glad 
I said that, because maybe laughing would get them in a better 

When they got done laughing, Davy says : — 

"It won't hardly do, Charles William. You couldn't have 
growed this much in five year, and you was a baby when you come 
out of the bar'l, you know, and dead at that. Come, now, tell a 
straight story, and nobody '11 hurt you, if you ain't up to anything 
wrong. What is your name ? " 

" Aleck Hopkins, sir. Aleck James Hopkins." 

" Well, Aleck, where did you come from, here ? " 

" From a trading scow. She lays up the bend yonder. I was 
born on her. Pap has traded up and down here all his life ; and he 



told me to swim off here, because when you went by he said he 
would like to get some of you to speak to a Mr. Jonas Turner, in 
Cairo, and tell him — " 

" Oh, come ! " 

" Yes, sir, it 's as true as the world ; Pap he says — " 

" Oh, your grandmother ! " 

They all laughed, and I tried again to talk, but they broke in on 
me and stopped me. 


" Now, looky-here," says Davy ; " you 're scared, and so you talk 
wild. Honest, now, do you live in a scow, or is it a lie ? " 

"Yes, sir, in a trading scow. She lays up at the head of the 
bend. But I war n't born in her. It 's our first trip." 

" Now you 're talking ! What did you come aboard here, for ? 
To steal ? " 



" No, sir, I did n't. — It was only to get a ride on the raft. All 
boys does that." 

" Well, I know that. But what did you hide for ? " 

" Sometimes they drive the boys off." 

" So they do. They might steal. Looky-here; if we let you off 
this time, will you keep out of these kind of scrapes hereafter ? " 

" 'Deed I will, boss. You try me." 

" All right, then. You ain't but little ways from shore. Over- 
board with you, and don't you make a fool of yourself another time 
this way. — Blast it, boy, some raftsmen would rawhide you till you 
were black and blue ! " 

I did n't wait to kiss good-bye, but went overboard and broke for 
shore. When Jim come along by and by, the big raft was away out 
of sight around the point. I swum out and got aboard, and was 
mighty glad to see home again. : 

The boy did not get the information he was after, but his 
adventure has furnished the glimpse of the departed raftsman 
and keelboatman which I desire to offer in this place. 

I now come to a phase of the Mississippi River life of the 
flush times of steamboating, which seems to me to warrant 
full examination — the marvellous science of piloting, as dis- 
played there. I believe there has been nothing like it else- 
where in the world. 



WHEN I was a boy, there was but one permanent am- 
bition among my comrades in our village 2 on the 
west bank of the Mississippi River. That was, to be a 
steamboatman. We had transient ambitions 
of other sorts, but they were only transient. 


When a circus came and went, it left us all burning to be- 
come clowns ; the first negro minstrel show that came to our 
section left us all suffering to try that kind of life ; now and 

1 Hannibal, Missouri. 



then we had a hope that if we lived and were good, God 
would permit us to be pirates. These ambitions faded out, 
each in its turn ; but the ambition to be a steamboatman 
always remained. 

Once a day a cheap, gaudy packet arrived upward from 

St. Louis, and 
ward from 

another down- 
Keokuk. Before 
events, the day 
was glorious 
with expectancy ; 
after them, the 
day was a dead 
and empty thing. 
Not only the 
boys, but the 
whole village, 
felt this. After 
all these years I 
can picture that 
old time to my- 
self now, just as 
it was then : the 
white town 
drowsing in the 
sunshine of a 
summer's morn- 
ing ; the streets 
empty, or pretty 
nearly so ; one or 
two clerks sitting 
in front of the Water Street stores, with their splint-bot- 
tomed chairs tilted back against the wall, chins on breasts, 
hats slouched over their faces, asleep — with shingle-shav- 
ings enough around to show what broke them down; a 
sow and a litter of pigs loafing along the sidewalk, doing 
a good business in watermelon rinds and seeds ; two or 




tliree lonely little freight piles scattered about the " levee ; " 
a pile of "skids" on the slope of the stone-paved wharf, 
and the fragrant town drunkard asleep in the shadow of 
them ; two or three wood flats at the head of the wharf, 
but nobody to listen to the peaceful lapping of the wavelets 
against them ; the great Mississippi, the majestic, the mag- 
nificent Mississippi, rolling its mile-wide tide along, shining 
in the sun ; the dense forest away on the other side ; the 
"point" above the town, and the "point" below, bounding 

"all go hurrying 
to the wharf." 

the river-glimpse and turning it 
into a sort of sea, and withal a 

very still and brilliant and lonely one. Presently a film of 
dark smoke appears above one of those remote " points ; " 
instantly a negro drayman, famous for his quick eye and 
prodigious voice, lifts up the cry, " S-t-e-a-m-boat a-comin' ! " 
and the scene changes ! The town drunkard stirs, the 
clerks wake up, a furious clatter of drays follows, every 
house and store pours out a human contribution, and all 


iii a twinkling the dead town is alive and moving. Drays, 
carts, men, boys, all go hurrying from many quarters to 
a common centre, the wharf. Assembled there, the peo- 
ple fasten their eyes upon the coining boat as upon a won- 
der they are seeing for the first time. And the boat is 
rather a handsome sight, too. She is long and sharp and 
trim and pretty ; she has two tall, fancy-topped chimneys, 
with a gilded device of some kind swung between them ; a 
fanciful pilot-house, all glass and " gingerbread," perched on 
top of the " texas " deck behind them ; the paddle-boxes are 
gorgeous with a picture or with gilded rays above the boat's 
name ; the boiler deck, the hurricane deck, and the texas 
deck are fenced and ornamented" with clean white railings; 
there is a flag gallantly flying from the jack-staff; the fur- 
nace doors are open and the fires glaring bravely ; the upper 
decks are black with passengers ; the captain stands by the 
big bell, calm, imposing, the envy of all ; great volumes of 
the blackest smoke are rolling and tumbling out of the 
chimneys — a husbanded grandeur created with a bit of 
pitch pine just before arriving at a town ; the crew are 
grouped on the forecastle ; the broad stage is run far out 
over the port bow, and an envied deck-hand stands pic- 
turesquely on the end of it with a coil of rope in his hand ; 
the pent steam is screaming through the gauge-cocks ; the 
captain lifts his hand, a bell rings, the wheels stop ; then 
they turn back, churning the water to foam, and the steamer 
is at rest. Then such a scramble as there is to get aboard, 
and to get ashore, and to take in freight and to discharge 
freight, all at one and the same time ; and such a yelling 
and cursing as the mates facilitate it all with ! Ten min- 
utes later the steamer is under way again, with no flag 
on the jack-staff and no black smoke issuing from the 
chimneys. After ten more minutes the town is dead 
again, and the town drunkard asleep by the skids once 

My father was a justice of the peace, and I supposed he 



possessed the power of life and death over all men and could 
hang anybody that offended him. This was distinction 
enough for me as a general thing ; but the desire to be a 
steamboatman kept intruding, nevertheless. I first wanted 
to be a cabin-boy, so that I could come out with a white 
apron on and shake a table-cloth over the side, where all my 
old comrades could see me ; later I thought I would rather 

be the deck-hand 
who stood on the 
end of the stage- 
plank with the coil 
of rope in his hand, 
because he was 
particularly con- 
spicuous. But 
these were only 
day-dreams, — they 
were too heavenly 
to be contemplated 
as real possibili- 
ties. By and by 
one of our boys 
went away. He 
was not heard of 
for a long time. 
At last he turned 
up as apprentice 
" the town drunkard asleep once more." engineer or " strik- 
er " on a steamboat. 
This thing shook the bottom out of all my Sunday-school 
teachings. That boy had been notoriously worldly, and I 
just the reverse ; yet he was exalted to this eminence, and I 
left in obscurity and misery. There was nothing generous 
about this fellow in his greatness. He would always man- 
age to have a rusty bolt to scrub while his boat tarried at 
our town, and he would sit on the inside guard and scrub 


it, where we could all see him and envy him and loathe 
him. And whenever his boat was laid up he would come 
home and swell around the town in his blackest and greas- 
iest clothes, so that nobody could help remembering that 
he was a steamboatman ; and he used all sorts of steam- 
boat technicalities in his talk, as if he were so used to 
them that he forgot common people could not understand 
them. He would speak of the " labboard " side of a horse 
in an easy, natural way that would make one wish he 
was dead. And he was always talking about u St. Looy " 
like an old citizen ; he would refer casually to occasions 
when he " was coming down Fourth Street," or when he was 
" passing by the Planter's House," or when there was a fire 
and he took a turn on the brakes of "the old Big Missouri;" 
and then he would go on and lie about how many towns the 
size of ours were burned down there that day. Two or three 
of the boys had long been persons of consideration among 
us because they had been to St. Louis once and had a vague 
general knowledge of its wonders, but the day of their glory 
was over now. They lapsed into a humble silence, and 
learned to disappear when the ruthless " cub " - engineer 
approached. This fellow had money, too, and hair oil. 
Also an ignorant silver watch and a showy brass watch 
chain. He wore a leather belt and used no suspenders. If 
ever a youth was cordially admired and hated by his com- 
rades, this one was. No girl could withstand his charms. 
He " cut out " every boy in the village. When his boat blew 
up at last, it diffused a tranquil contentment among us such 
as we had not known for months. But when he came home 
the next week, alive, renowned, and appeared in church 
all battered up and bandaged, a shining hero, stained at and 
wondered over by everybody, it seemed to us that the par- 
tiality of Providence for an undeserving reptile had reached 
a point where it was open to criticism. 

This creature's career could produce but one result, and it 
speedily followed. Boy after boy managed to get on the 



river. The minister's son became an engineer. The doctor's 
and the post-master's sons became " mud clerks ; " the 
wholesale liquor dealer's son became a bar-keeper on a boat ; 

four sons of the 
chief merchant, 
and two sons of 
the county judge, 
became pilots. 
Pilot was the 
grandest position 
of all. The pilot, 
even in those 
days of trivial 
wages, had a 
princely salary — 
from a hundred 
and fifty to two 
hundred and fifty 
dollars a month, 
and no board to 
pay. Two months 
of his wages 
would pay a 
preacher's salary 
for a year. Now 
some of us were 
left disconsolate. 
We could not get 
on the river — at 
least our parents 
would not let us. 
So by and by I 
I said I never would come home again till T was 
a pilot and could come in glory. But somehow I could not 
manage it. I went meekly aboard a few of the boats that 
lay packed together like sardines at the long St. Louis 

A SHINIXfi hetco. 

ran away. 



wharf, and very humbly inquired for the pilots, but got only 
a cold shoulder and short words from mates and clerks. 
1 had to make the best of this sort of treatment for the 
time being, but I had comforting day-dreams of a future 
when I should be a great and honored pilot, with plenty of 
money, and could kill some of these mates and clerks and 
pay for them. 



MONTHS afterward the hope within me struggled to 
a reluctant death, and I found myself without an 
ambition. But I was ashamed to go home. I was in Cincin- 
nati, and I set to work to map out a new career. I had been 
reading about the recent exploration of the river Amazon by 
an expedition sent out by our government. It was said that 
the expedition, owing to difficulties, had not thoroughly 
explored a part of the country lying about the head-waters, 
some four thousand miles from the mouth of the river. It 
was only about fifteen hundred miles from Cincinnati to New 
Orleans, where I could doubtless get a ship. I had thirty 
dollars left ; I would go and complete the exploration of the 
Amazon. This was all the thought I gave to the subject. I 
never was great in matters of detail. I packed my valise, 
and took passage on an ancient tub called the " Paul Jones," 
for New Orleans. For the sum of sixteen dollars I had the 
scarred and tarnished splendors of " her " main saloon prin- 
cipally to myself, for she was not a creature to attract the eye 
of wiser travellers. 

When we presently got under way and went poking down 
the broad Ohio, I became a new being, and the subject of my 
own admiration. I was a traveller ! A word never had tasted 
so good in my mouth before. I had an exultant sense of 
being bound for mysterious lands and distant climes which 
I never have felt in so uplifting a degree since. I was in such 
a glorified condition that all ignoble feelings departed out of 




me, and I was able to look down and pity the untravelled with 

a compassion that had hardly a trace of contempt in it. Still, 

when we stopped at villages and wood-yards, I could not 

help lolling carelessly upon the railings of the boiler deck to 

enjoy the envy of the country boys 

on the bank. If they did not seem 

to discover me, I presently sneezed 

to attract their attention, or moved 

to a position where they could not 

help seeing me. And as soon as I 

knew they saw me I 

gaped and stretch- / 

ed, and gave oth- 
er signs of being 
mightily bored 
with travelling. 

I kept my hat 
off all the time, 
and stayed where 
the wind and the 
sun could strike 
me, because I 
wanted to get the 
bronzed and wea- 
ther-beaten look of 
an old traveller. 
Before the second 
day was half gone, 
I experienced a joy 

which filled me with the purest gratitude ; for I saw that the 
skin had begun to blister and peel off my face and neck. 
I wished that the boys and girls at home could see me 

We reached Louisville in time — at least the neighborhood 
of it. We stuck hard and fast on the rocks in the middle of 
the river, and lay there four days. I was now beginning to 



feel a strong sense of being a part of the boat's family, a sort 
of infant son to the captain and younger brother to the 
officers. There is no estimating the pride I took in this 
grandeur, or the affection that began to swell and grow in me 
for those people. I could not know how the lordly steamboat- 
man scorns that sort of presumption in a mere landsman.. 
I particularly longed to acquire the least trifle of notice from 
the big stormy mate, and I was on the alert for an oppor- 
tunity to do him a service to that end. It came at last. 
The riotous powwow of setting a spar was going on down 
on the forecastle, and I went down there and stood around 
in the way — or mostly skipping out of it — till the mate 
suddenly roared a general order for somebody to bring him 
a capstan bar. I sprang to his side and said : " Tell me 
where it is— I '11 fetch it!" 

If a rag-picker had offered to do a diplomatic service for 
the Emperor of Russia, the monarch could not have been 
more astounded than the mate was. He even stopped 
swearing. He stood and stared down at me. It took him 
ten seconds to scrape his disjointed remains together again. 
Then he said impressively : " Well, if this don't beat hell ! " 
and turned to his work with the air of a man who had been 
confronted with a problem too abstruse for solution. 

I crept away, and courted solitude for the rest of the day. 
I did not go to dinner ; I stayed away from supper until 
everybody else had finished. I did not feel so much like a 
member of the boat's family now as before. However, my 
spirits returned, in instalments, as we pursued our way down 
the river. I was sorry I *hated the mate so, because it was 
not in (young) human nature not to admire him. He was 
huge and muscular, his face was bearded and whiskered all 
over ; he had a red woman and a blue woman tattooed on 
his right arm, — one on each side of a blue anchor with 
a red rope to it; and in the matter of profanity he was 
sublime. When lie was getting out cargo at a landing, I 
was always where I could see and hear. He felt all the 

"tell me where it is — i'll fetch it!" 



majesty of his great position, and made the world feel it, too. 
When he gave even the simplest order, he discharged it like 
a blast of lightning, and sent a long, reverberating peal of 
profanity thundering after it. I could not help contrasting 
the way in which the average 
landsman would give an order, 
with the mate's way of doing it. 


If the landsman should wish the gang-plank moved a foot 
farther forward, he would probaoly say : " James, or Wil- 
liam, one of you push that plank forward, please : " but put 
the mate in his place, and he would roar out : " Here, now, 
start that gang-plank for'ard ! Lively, now ! What 're you 
about ! Snatch it ! snatch it ! There ! there ! Aft again ! 


aft again ! Don't you hear me ? Dash it to dash ! are you 
going to sleep over it ! ' Vast heaving. 'Vast heaving, I tell 
you ! Going to heave it clear astern ? WHERE 're you 
going with that barrel ! forard with it 'fore I make you swal- 
low it, you dash-dash-dash-c?a.s/jed! split between a tired mud- 
turtle and a crippled hearse-horse ! " 

I wished I could talk like that. 

When the soreness of my adventure with the mate had 
somewhat worn off, I began timidly to make up to the hum- 
blest official connected with the boat — the night watchman. 
He snubbed my advances at first, but I presently ventured 
to offer him a new chalk pipe, and that softened him. So 
he allowed me to sit with him by the big bell on the hurri- 
cane deck, and in time he melted into conversation. He 
could not well have helped it, I hung with such homage on 
his words and so plainly showed that I felt honored by his 
notice. He told me the names of dim capes and shadowy 
islands as we glided by them in the solemnity of the night, 
under the winking stars, and by and by got to talking about 
himself. He seemed over-sentimental for a man whose salary 
was six. dollars a week — or rather he might have seemed so 
to an older person than I. But I drank in his words hun- 
grily, and with a faith that might have moved mountains if 
it had been applied judiciously. What was it to me that he 
was soiled and seedy and fragrant with gin ? What was it 
to me that his grammar was bad, his construction worse, 
and his profanity so void of art that it was an element of 
'weakness rather than strength in his conversation? He was 
a wronged man, a man who had seen trouble, and that was 
enough for me. As he mellowed into his plaintive history 
his tears dripped upon the lantern in his lap, and 1 cried, 
too, from sympathy. He said he was the son of an English 
nobleman — either an earl or an alderman, he could not re- 
member which, but believed was both ; his father, the noble- 
man, loved him, but his mother hated him from the cradle ; 
and so while he was still a little boy he was sent to " one of 



them old, ancient colleges" — he couldn't remember which ; 
and by and by his father died and his mother seized the 
property and " shook " him, as he phrased it. After his 
mother shook him, members of the 

nobility with whom he ( was acquainted 

used their influence to 


lolly-boy in a ship ; " and from that point my watchman 
threw off all trammels of date and locality and branched out 
into a narrative that bristled all along with incredible adven- 
tures ; a narrative that was so reeking with bloodshed and so 
crammed with hair-breadth escapes and the most engaging 
and unconscious personal villanies, that I sat speechless, 
enjoying, shuddering, wondering, worshipping. 



It was a sore blight to find out afterwards that he was a 
low, vulgar, ignorant, sentimental, half-witted humbug, an 
untravelled native of the wilds of Illinois, who had absorbed 
wildcat literature and appropriated its marvels, until in time 
he had woven odds and ends of the mess into this yarn, and 
then gone on telling it to fledglings like me, until he had 
come to believe it himself. 




WHAT with lying on the rocks four days at Louisville, 
and some other delays, the poor old " Paul Jones " 
fooled away about two weeks in making the voyage from 
Cincinnati to New Orleans. This gave me a chance to get 
acquainted with one of the pilots, and he taught me how to 
steer the boat, and thus made the fascination of river life 
more potent than ever for me. 

It also gave me a chance to get acquainted w r ith a youth 
who had taken deck passage — more 's the pity ; for he 
easily borrowed six dollars of me on a promise to return to 
the boat and pay it back to me the day after we should 
arrive. But he probably died or forgot, for he never came. It 
was doubtless the former, since he had said his parents were 
wealthy, and he only travelled deck passage because it was 
cooler. 1 

I soon discovered two things. One was that a vessel would 
not be likely to sail for the mouth of the Amazon under ten 
or twelve years ; and the other was that the nine or ten 
dollars still left in my pocket would not suffice for so impos- 
ing an exploration as I had planned, even if I could afford 
to wait for a ship. Therefore it followed that I must con- 
trive a new career. The " Paul Jones " was now bound for 
St. Louis. I planned a siege against my pilot, and at the end 
of three hard days he surrendered. He agreed to teach me 
the Mississippi River from New Orleans to St. Louis for five 

1 " Deck " passage — i. e., steerage passage. 



hundred dollars, payable out of the first wages I should 
receive after graduating. I entered upon the small enter- 
prise of " learning" twelve or thirteen hundred miles of the 
great Mississippi River with the easy confidence of my time 

of life. If I had 
what I was about 
faculties, I should 

really known 
to require of my 
not have had 
the courage to 
begin. I sup- 
posed that all 
a pilot had to 
do was to keep 
his boat in the 
river, and I did 
not consider 
that that could 
be much of a 
trick, since it 
was so wide. 

The boat 
backed out 
from New Or- 
leans at four 
in the after- 
noon, and it 
w as " o u r 
watch " until 
eight. Mr. 
Bixby , my chief, " straight- 
ened her up," plowed her 
along past the sterns of 
the other boats that lay at 
the Levee, and then said, " Here, take her ; shave those 
steamships as close as you 'd peej an apple." I took the 
wheel, and my heart-beat fluttered up into the hundreds ; 
for it seemed to me that we were about to scrape the side 





off every ship in the line, we were so close. I held my 
breath and began to claw the boat away from the danger ; 
and I had my own opinion of the pilot who had known no 
better than to get us into such peril, but I was too wise 
to express it. In half a minute I had a wide margin of 
safety intervening between the " Paul Jones " and the ships ; 
and within ten seconds more I was set aside in disgrace, 
and Mr. Bixby was going into danger again and flaying me 
alive with abuse 
of my cowardice. 
I was stung, but 
I was obliged to 
admire the easy 
confidence with 
which my chief 
loafed from side 
to side of his 
wheel, and 
trimmed the 
ships so closely 
that disaster 
seemed cease- 
lessly imminent. 
When he had 
cooled a little he 
told me that the 
easy water was 

close ashore and the current outside, and therefore we 
must hug the bank, up-stream, to get the benefit of the 
former, and stay well out, down-stream, to take advantage 
of the latter. In my own mind I resolved to be a down- 
stream pilot and leave the up-streaming to people dead to 

Now and then Mr. Bixby called my attention to certain 
things. Said he, " This is Six-Mile Point." I assented. It 
was pleasant enough information, but I could not see the 





bearing of it. I was not conscious that it was a matter of 
any interest to me. Another time he said, " This is Nine- 
Mile Point." Later he said, " This is Twelve-Mile Point." 
They were all about level with the water's edge; they all 
looked about alike to me ; they were monotonously unpic- 
turesque. I hoped Mr. Bixby would change the subject. 

But no ; he would 
crowd up around a 
point, hugging the 
shore with affec- 
tion, and then 


say : " The 

slack water 

ends here, 

abreast this 

bunch of 

China-trees ; now we cross over." 

So he crossed over. He gave me 

the wheel once or twice, but I had no luck. I either came 

near chipping off the edge of a sugar plantation, or I yawed 

too far from shore, and so dropped back into disgrace again 

and got abused. 

The watch was ended at last, and we took supper and went 
to bed. At midnight the glare of a lantern shone in my 
eyes, and the night watchman said : — 



" Come ! turn out ! " 

And then he left. I could not understand this extraordi- 
nary procedure ; so I presently gave up trying to, and dozed 
off to sleep. Pretty soon the watchman was back again, and 
this time he was gruff. I was annoyed. I said : — 

" What do you want to come 


bothering around here in the middle 
of the night for ? Now as like as not I '11 not get to sleep 
again to-night." 

The watchman said : — 

" Well, if this an't good, I 'm blest." 

The " off-watch " was just turning in, and I heard some 
brutal laughter from them, and such remarks as " Hello, 
watchman! an't the new cub turned out }^et? He's deli- 
cate, likely. Give him some sugar in a rag and send for 
the chambermaid to sing rock-a-by-baby to him." 

About this time Mr. Bixby appeared on the scene. Some- 
thing like a minute later I was climbing the pilot-house 
steps with some of my clothes on and the rest in my arms. 
Mr. Bixby was close behind, commenting. Here was some- 



thing fresh — this thing of getting up in the middle of the 
night to go to work. It was a detail in piloting that had 
never occurred to me at all. I knew that boats ran all 

night, but somehow I had 
never happened to reflect 
that somebody had to get 
up out of a warm bed to 
run them. I began to fear 
that piloting was not quite 
so romantic as I had imag- 
ined it was ; there was 
something very real and 
work-like about this new 
phase of it. 

It was a rather dingy 
night, although a fair 
number of stars were out. 
The big mate was at the 
wheel, and he had the old 
tub pointed at a star and 
was holding her straight 
up the middle of the river. 
The shores on either hand 
were not much more than 
half a mile apart, but they 
seemed wonderfully far 
away and ever so vague 
and indistinct. The mate 
said : — 

" We 've got to land at 
Jones's plantation, sir." 

The vengeful spirit in 

me exulted. I said to 

myself, I wish you joy of your job, Mr. Bixby ; you '11 have 

a good time finding Mr. Jones's plantation such a night as 

this ; and I hope you never will find it as long as you live. 

■d m 

"a minute later.' 


Mr. Bixby said to the mate : — 

" Upper end of the plantation, or the lower ? " 

" Upper." 

" I can't do it. The stumps there are out of water at this 
stage. It 's no great distance to the lower, and you '11 have 
to get along with that." 

"All right, sir. If Jones don't like it he '11 have to lump 
it, I reckon." 

And then the mate left. My exultation began to cool 
and my wonder to come up. Here was a man who not only 
proposed to find this plantation on such a night, but to find 
either end of it you preferred. I dreadfully wanted to ask 
a question, but I was carrying about as many short answers 
as my cargo-room would admit of, so I held my peace. 
All I desired to ask Mr. Bixby was the simple question 
whether he was ass enough to really imagine he was going 
to find that plantation on a night when all plantations were 
exactly alike and all the same color. But I held in. I 
used to have fine inspirations of prudence in those days. 

Mr. Bixby made for the shore and soon was scraping it, 
just the same as if it had been daylight. And not only that, 
but singing — 

"Father in heaven, the day is declining," etc. 

It seemed to me that I had put my life in the keeping of a 
peculiarly reckless outcast. Presently he turned on me and 
said : — 

"What's the name of the first point above New Orleans?" 

I was gratified to be able to answer promptly, and I did. 
I said I did n't know. 

" Don't know t " 

This manner jolted me. I was down at the foot again, in 
a moment. But I had to say just what I had said before. 

" Well, you 're a smart one," said Mr. Bixby. " What 's 
the name of the next point ? " 

Once more I did n't know. 



" Well, this beats anything. Tell me the name of any 
point or place 1 told you." 

I studied a while and decided that I could n't. 

" Look here ! What do you start out from, above Twelve- 
Mile Point, to cross over ? " 

"I — I— don't know." 

"You— you — don't know?" mimicking my drawling maii- 


ner of speech. What do you know ?" 
"I — I — nothing, for certain." 
"By the great Caesar's ghost, I believe you! You're 
the stupidest dunderhead I ever saw or ever heard of, so 
help me Moses! The idea of ynu being a pilot — you! 
Why, you don't know enough to pilot a cow down a 

Oh, but his wrath was up ! He was a nervous man, and 
he shuffled from one side of his wheel to the other as if the 



floor was hot. He would boil a while to himself, and then 
overflow and scald me again. 

" Look here ! What do you suppose I told you the names 
of those points for ? " 

I tremblingly considered a moment, and then the devil of 
temptation provoked me to say : — 

" Well — to — to — be entertaining, I thought." 

This was a red rag to the bull. He raged and stormed so 
(he was crossing the river at the time) that I judge it made 
him blind, because he ran over the steering-oar of a trading- 
scow. Of course the 
traders sent up a volley 
of red-hot profanity. 
Never was a 
man so grateful 
as Mr. Bixby 
was : because he 
was brim full, 
and here were 
subjects who 
would talk back. 
He threw open 
a window, thrust 
his head out, 
and such an ir- 
ruption followed 
as I never had heard before, 
the scowmen's curses drifted, 


The fainter and farther away 
the higher Mr. Bixby lifted 
his voice and the weightier his adjectives grew. When he- 
closed the window he was empty. You could have drawn a 
seine through his system and not caught curses enough to 
disturb your mother with. Presently he said to me in the 
gentlest way : — 

" My boy, you must get a little memorandum-book, and 
every time I tell you a thing, put it down right away. 
There 's only one way to be a pilot, and that is to get this 


entire river by heart. You have to know it just like 
A B C." 

That was a dismal revelation to me ; for my memory was 
never loaded witli anything but blank cartridges. However, 
I did not feel discouraged long. I judged that it was best to 
make some allowances, for doubtless Mr. Bixby was " stretch- 
ing." Presently he pulled a rope and struck a few strokes 
on the big bell. The stars were all gone now, and the night 
was as black as ink. I could hear the wheels churn along 
the bank, but I was not entirely certain that I could see the 
shore. The voice of the invisible watchman called up from 
the hurricane deck : — 

" What 's this, sir?" 

" Jones's plantation." 

I said to myself, I wish I might venture to offer a small 
bet that it is n't. But I did not chirp. I only waited to see. 
Mr. Bixby handled the engine bells, and in due time the 
boat's nose came to the land, a torch glowed from the fore- 
castle, a man skipped ashore, a darky's voice on the bank 
said, " Gimme de k'yarpet-bag, Mars' Jones," and the next 
moment we were standing up the river again, all serene. 
I reflected deeply a while, and then said, — but not aloud, 
— Well, the finding of that plantation was the luckiest 
accident that ever happened ; but it could n't happen again 
in a hundred years. And I fully believed it was an acci- 
dent, too. 

By the time we had gone seven or eight hundred miles up 
the river, I had learned to be a tolerably plucky upstream 
steersman, in daylight, and before we reached St. Louis I 
had made a trifle of progress in night-work, but only a trifle. 
I had a note-book that fairly bristled with the names of 
towns, " points," bars, islands, bends, reaches, etc. ; but the 
information was to be found only in the note-book — none 
of it was in my head. It made my heart ache to think I 
had only got half of the river set down ; for as our watch 
was four hours off and four hours on, day and night, there 



was a long four-hour gap in my book for every time I had 
slept since the voyage began. 

My chief was presently hired to go on a big New Orleans 


and I 


my satchel 

and went with him. She 

was a grand affair. When I stood 

in her pilot-house I was so far 

above the water that I seemed 

perched on a mountain ; and her 

decks stretched so far away, fore 

and aft, below me, that T wondered 

how I could ever have considered the little "Paul Jones" a 

large craft. There were other differences, too. The " Paul 

Jones's" pilot-house was a cheap, dingy, battered rattle-trap, 



cramped for room: but here was a sumptuous glass temple ; 
room enough to have a dance in ; showy red and gold window- 
curtains ; an imposing sofa ; leather cushions and a back to 
the high bench where visiting pilots sit, to spin yarns and 
" look at the river ; " bright, fanciful " cuspadores " instead 
of a broad wooden box filled with sawdust ; nice new oil- 
cloth on the floor ; a hospitable big stove for winter ; a wheel 
as high as my head, costly with inlaid work ; a wire tiller- 
rope; bright brass knobs for the bells; and a tidy, white- 
aproned, black " texas-tender," to bring up tarts and ices and 
coffee during mid-watch, day and night. Now this was " some- 
thing like ; " and so I began to take heart once more to 
believe that piloting was a romantic sort of occupation after 
all. The moment we were under way 1 began to prowl 
about the great steamer and fill myself with joy. She was 
as clean and as dainty as a drawing-room ; when I looked 
down her long, gilded saloon, it was like gazing through a 
splendid tunnel ; she had an oil-picture, by some gifted sign- 
painter, on every state-room door ; she glittered with no end 
of prism-fringed chandeliers ; the clerk's office was elegant, 
the bar was marvellous, and the bar-keeper had been bar- 
bered and upholstered at incredible cost. The boiler deck 
(i.e., the second story of the boat, so to speak), was as spa- 
cious as a church, it seemed to me ; so with the forecastle ; 
and there was no pitiful handful of deck-hands, firemen, and 
roust-abouts down there, but a whole battalion of men. The 
fires were fiercely glaring from a long row of furnaces, and 
over them were eight huge boilers ! This was unutterable 
pomp. The mighty engines — but enough of this. I had 
never felt so fine before. And when 1 found that the regi- 
ment of natty servants respectfully " sir'd " me, my satisfac- 
tion was complete. 



WHEN I returned to the pilot-house St. Louis was gone 
and I was lost. Here was a piece of river which was 
all down in my book, but I could make neither head nor tail 
of it : you understand, it was turned around. I had seen it 
when coming up-stream, but I had never faced about to see 
how it looked when it was behind me. My heart broke 
again, for it was plain that I had got to learn this trouble- 
some river both ways. 

The pilot-house was full of pilots, going down to " look at 
the river." What is called the " upper river " (the two 
hundred miles between St. Louis and Cairo, where the Ohio 
comes in) was low ; and the Mississippi changes its channel 
so constantly that the pilots used to always find it necessary 
to run down to Cairo to take a fresh look, when their boats 
were to lie in port a week ; that is, when the water was at a 
low stage. A deal of this " looking at the river " was done 
by poor fellows who seldom had a berth, and whose only 
hope of getting one lay in their being always freshly posted 
and therefore ready to drop into the shoes of some reputable 
pilot, for a single trip, on account of such pilot's sudden 
illness, or some other necessity. And a good many of them 
constantly ran up and down inspecting the river, not because 
they ever really hoped to get a berth, but because (they 
being guests of the boat) it was cheaper to " look at the 
river" than stay ashore and pay board. In time these 
fellows grew dainty in their tastes, and only infested boats 
that had an established reputation for setting good tables. 



All visiting pilots were useful, for they were always ready 
and willing, winter or summer, night or day, to go out in the 
yawl and help buoy the channel or assist the boat's pilots 
in any way they could. They were likewise welcome 


because all pilots are tireless talk- 
ers, when gathered together, and 
as they talk only about the river 
they are always understood and are always interesting. Your 
true pilot cares nothing about anything on earth but the river, 
and his pride in his occupation surpasses the pride of kings. 

We had a fine company of these river-inspeefcors along, 
this trip. There were eight or ten ; and there was abun- 
dance of room for them in our great pilot-house. Two or 
three of them wore polished silk hats, elaborate shirt-fronts, 
diamond breastpins, kid gloves, and patent-leather boots. 
They were choice in their English, and bore themselves with 
a dignity proper to men of solid means and prodigious 
reputation as pilots. The others were more or less loosely 
clad, and wore upon their heads tall felt cones that were 
suggestive of the days of the Commonwealth. 

I was a cipher in this august company, and felt subdued, 
not to say torpid. I was not even of sufficient consequence 
to assist at the wheel when it was necessary to put the tiller 


hard down in a hurry ; the guest that stood nearest did that 
when occasion required — and this was pretty much all the 
time, because of the crookedness of the channel and the 
scant water. I stood in a corner ; and the talk I listened 
to took the hope all out of me. One visitor said to 
another : — 

" Jim, how did you run Plum Point, coming up ? " 

" It was in the night ; there, and I ran it the way one of 
the boys on the ' Diana ' told me ; started out about fifty 
yards above the wood pile on the false point, and held on the 
cabin under Plum Point till I raised the reef — quarter less 
twain — then straightened up for the middle bar till I got 
well abreast the old one-limbed cotton-wood in the bend, 
then got my stern on the cotton-wood and head on the low 
place above the point, and came through a-booming — nine 
and a half." 

" Pretty square crossing, an't it ? " 

" Yes, but the upper bar 's working down fast." 

Another pilot spoke up and said : — 

" I had better water than that, and ran it lower down ; 
started out from the false point — mark twain — raised the 
second reef abreast the big snag in the bend, and had 
quarter less twain." • 

One of the gorgeous ones remarked : — 

" I don't want to find fault with your leadsmen, but that 's 
a good deal of water for Plum Point, it seems to me." 

There was an approving nod all around as this quiet snub 
dropped on the boaster and " settled " him. And so they 
went on talk-talk-talking. Meantime, the thing that was 
running in my mind was, " Now if my ears hear aright, I 
have not only to get the names of all the towns and islands 
and bends, and so on, by heart, but I must even get up a 
warm personal acquaintanceship with every old snag and 
one-limbed cotton-wood and obscure wood pile that orna- 
ments the banks of this river for twelve hundred miles ; and 
more than that, I must actually know where these things 



are in the dark, unless these guests are gifted with eyes that 
can pierce through two miles of solid blackness ; I wish the 
piloting business was in Jericho and I had never thought 
of it." 

At dusk Mr. Bixby tapped the big bell three times (the 
signal to land), and the captain emerged from his drawing- 
room in the forward end of the 
texas, and looked up inquiringly. 
Mr. Bixby said : — 

" We will lay up here all night, 

" Very well, sir." 
That was all. The boat came 
to shore and was tied up for the 
night. It seemed to me a fine 
thing that the pilot could do as 
he pleased, without asking so 
grand a captain's permission. 
I took my supper and went im- 
mediately to bed, discouraged by 
my day's observations and ex- 
periences. My late voyage's 
note-booking was but a confusion 
of meaningless names. It had 
tangled me all up in a knot 
every time I had looked at it in the daytime. I now hoped 
for respite in sleep ; but no, it revelled all through my head 
till sunrise again, a frantic and tireless nightmare. 

Next morning I felt pretty rusty and low-spirited. We 
went booming along, taking a good many chances, for we 
were anxious to " get out of the river " (as getting out to 
Cairo was called) before night should overtake us. But Mr. 
Bixby's partner, the other pilot, presently grounded the boat, 
and we lost so much time getting her off that it was plain 
the darkness would overtake us a good long way above the 
mouth. This was a great misfortune, especially to certain 



of our visiting pilots, whose boats would have to wait for 
their return, no matter how long that might be. It sobered 
the pilot-house talk a good deal. Coming up-stream, pilots 
did not mind low water or any kind of darkness; nothing- 
stopped them but fog. But down-stream work was different ; 
a boat was too nearly helpless, with a stiff current pushing 
behind her ; so it was not customary to run down-stream at 
night in low water. 

There seemed to be one small hope, however : if we could 
get through the intricate and dangerous Hat Island crossing 
before night, we could venture the rest, for we would have 
plainer sailing and better water. But it would be insanity 
to attempt Hat Island at night. So there was a deal of 
looking at watches all the rest of the day, and a constant 
ciphering upon the speed we were making ; Hat Island was 
the eternal subject ; sometimes hope was high and sometimes 
we were delayed in a bad crossing, and down it went again. 
For hours all hands lay under the burden of this suppressed 
excitement ; it was even communicated to me, and I got to 
feeling so solicitous about Hat Island, and under such an 
awful pressure of responsibility, that I wished I might have 
five minutes on shore to draw a good, full, relieving breath, 
and start over again. We were standing no regular watches. 
Each of our pilots ran such portions of the river as he had 
run when coming up-stream, because of his greater familiar- 
ity with it ; but both remained in the pilot-house constantly. 

An hour before sunset, Mr. Bixby took the wheel and Mr. 

W stepped aside. For the next thirty minutes every 

man held his watch in his hand and was restless, silent, and 
uneasy. At last somebody said, with a doomful sigh, — 

" Well yonder 's Hat Island — and we can't make it." 

All the watches closed with a snap, everybody sighed and 
muttered something about its being "too bad, too bad — ah, 
if we could only have got here half an hour sooner ! " and 
the place was thick with the atmosphere of disappointment. 
Some started to go out, but loitered, hearing no bell-tap to 



land. Tb'e sun dipped behind the horizon, the boat went 
on. Inquiring looks passed from one guest to another ; and 
one who had his hand on the door-knob and had turned it, 
waited, then presently took away his hand and let the knob 
turn back again. We bore steadily down the bend. More 


looks were exchanged, and nods 
of surprised admiration — but 
no words. Insensibly the men 
drew together behind Mr. Bixby, as the sky darkened and one 
or two dim stars came out. The dead silence and sense of 
waiting became oppressive. Mr. Bixby pulled the cord, and 
two deep, mellow notes from the big bell floated off on the 
night. Then a pause, and one more note was struck. The 
watchman's voice followed, from the hurricane deck: — 
" Labboard lead, there ! Stabboard lead ! " 
The cries of the leadsmen began to rise out of the dis- 
tance, and were gruffly repeated by the word-passers on the 
hurricane deck. 

"M-a-r-k three! .... M-a-r-k three! .... Quarter-less- 


three! .... Half twain! .... Quarter twain! .... M-a-r-k 
twain! .... Quarter-less" — 

Mr. Bixby pulled two bell-ropes, and was answered by 
faint jinglings far below in the engine room, and our speed 
slackened. The steam began to whistle through the gauge- 
cocks. The cries of the leadsmen went on — and it is a 
weird sound, always, in the night. Every pilot in the lot 
was watching now, with fixed eyes, and talking under his 
breath. Nobody was calm and easy but Mr. Bixby. He 
would put his wheel down and stand on a spoke, and as the 
steamer swung into her (to me) utterly invisible marks — 
for we seemed to be in the midst of a wide and gloomy sea 
— he would meet and fasten her there. Out of the murmur 
of half-audible talk, one caught a coherent sentence now and 
then — such as: 

"There; she's over the first reef all right!" 

After a pause, another subdued voice : — 

"Her stern's coming down just exactly right, by George!" 

"Now she's in the marks ; over she goes!" 

Somebody else muttered: — 

"Oh, it was done beautiful — beautiful!'''' 

Now the engines were stopped altogether, and we drifted 
with the current. Not that I could see the boat drift, for 
I could not, the stars being all gone by this time. This 
drifting was the dismalest work; it held one's heart still. 
Presently I discovered a blacker gloom than that which 
surrounded us. It was the head of the island. We were 
closing right down upon it. We entered its deeper shadow, 
and so imminent seemed the peril that I was likely to suffo- 
cate; and I had the strongest impulse to do something, any- 
thing, to save the vessel. But still Mr. Bixby stood by his 
wheel, silent, intent as a cat, and all the pilots stood shoulder 
to shoulder at his back. 

"She'll not make it!" somebody whispered. 

The water grew shoaler and shoaler, by the leadsman's 
cries, till it was down to — 




"Eight-and-a-half! .... E-i-g-h-t feet! E-i-g-h-t feet! 

, . . Seven-and" — 

Mr. Bixby said warningly through his speaking tube to 

the engineer : — 

" Stand by, 
now ! " 

"Aye-aye, sir ! " 
" Seven- and -a- 
half! Seven feet! 
/Sfo-and" — 

We touched 
bottom ! Instant- 
ly Mr. Bixby set 
a lot of bells ring- 
i n g, shouted 
through the tube, 
"Now, let her 
have it — every 
ounce you've 
got!" then to his 
partner, " Put her 
hard down ! snatch 
her! snatch her!" 
The boat rasped 
and ground her 
way through the 

" STAND "BY, NOW ! " 

sand, hung upon the apex of disaster a single tremendous 
instant, and then over she went ! And such a shout as went 
up at Mr. Bixby's back never loosened the roof of a pilot- 
house before ! 

There was no more trouble after that. Mr. Bixby was a 
hero that night ; and it was some little time, too, before his 
exploit ceased to be talked about by river men. 

Fully to realize the marvellous precision required in laying 
the great steamer in her marks in that murky waste of 
water, one should know that not only must she pick her 




intricate way through snags and blind reefs, and then shave 
the head of the island so closely as to brush the overhanging 
foliage with her stern, but at one place she must pass almost 
within arm's reach of a sunken and invisible wreck that 
would snatch the hull timbers from under her if she should 
strike it, and destroy a quarter of a million dollars' worth 
of steamboat and cargo in five minutes, and maybe a hun- 
dred and fifty human lives into the bargain. 

The last remark I heard that night was a compliment to 
Mr. Bixby, uttered in soliloquy and with unction by one of 
our guests. He said : — 

" By the Shadow of Death, but he 's a lightning pilot ! " 



AT the end of what seemed a tedious while, I had man- 
aged to pack my head full of islands, towns, bars, 
" points," and bends ; and a curiously inanimate mass of 
lumber it was, too. However, inasmuch as I could shut 

my eyes 
and reel 
off a good 
long string 
of these 
n a m e s 
leaving out 
more than 
ten miles 
of river in 
every fifty, 
I began to 
feel that I 
could take 
a boat 
d o w n t o 
New Or- 
leans if I 
could make her skip those little gaps. But of course my 
complacency could hardly get start enough to lift my nose a 
trifle into the air, before Mr. Bixby would think of some- 



thing to fetch it down again. One day he turned on me 
suddenly with this settler : — 

" What is the shape of Walnut Bend ? " 
He might as well have asked me my grandmother's opin- 
ion of protoplasm. I reflected respectfully, and then said I 
did n't know it had any particular shape. My gunpowdery 
chief went off with a bang, of course, and then went on 
loading and firing until he was out of adjectives. 

I had learned long ago that he only carried just so many 
rounds of ammunition, and was sure to subside into a very 
placable and even remorseful old smooth-bore as soon as 
they were all gone. That word "old" is merely affectionate; 
he was not more than thirty-four. I waited. By and by he 
said, — 

" My boy, you 've got to know the shape of the river 
perfectly. It is all there is left to steer by on a very dark 
night. Everything else is blotted put and gone. But mind 
you, it has n't the same shape in the night that it has in the 

" How on earth am I ever going to learn it, then ? " 

" How do you follow a hall at home in the dark ? Be- 
cause you know the shape of it. You can't see it." 

" Do you mean to say that I 've got to know all the million 
trifling variations of shape in the banks of this interminable 
river as well as I know the shape of the front hall at home?" 

" On my honor, you 've got to know them better than any 
man ever did know the shapes of the halls in his own house." 

" I wish I was dead ! " 

" Now I don't want to discourage you, but " — 

" Well, pile it on me ; I might as well have it now as 
another time." 

" You see, this has got to be learned ; there is n't any 
getting around it. A clear starlight night throws such heavy 
shadows that if you did n't know the shape of a shore per- 
fectly you would claw away from every bunch of timber, 
because you would take the black shadow of it for a solid 


cape; and you see you would be getting scared to death every 
fifteen minutes by the watch. You would be fifty yards from 
shore all the time when you ought to be within fifty feet of it. 
You can't see a snag in one of those shadows, but you know 
exactly where it is, and the shape of the river tells you when 
you are coming to it. Then there 's your pitch-dark night ; 
the river is a very different shape on a pitch-dark night 
from what it is on a starlight night. All shores seem to be 
straight lines, then, and mighty dim ones, too; and you'd 
run them for straight lines only you know better. You 
boldly drive your boat right into what seems to be a solid, 
straight wall (you knowing very well that in reality there is 
a curve there), and that wall falls back and makes way for 
you. Then there 's your gray mist. You take a night when 
there 's one of these grisly, drizzly, gray mists, and then 
there is n't any particular shape to a shore. A gray mist 
would tangle the head of the oldest man that ever lived. 
Well, then, different kinds of moonlight change the shape of 
the river in different ways. You see " — 

" Oh, don't say any more, please ! Have I got to learn 
the shape of the river according to all these five hundred 
thousand different ways ? If I tried to carry all that cargo 
in my head it would make me stoop-shouldered." 

" No ! you only learn the shape of the river ; and you 
learn it with such absolute certainty that you can always 
steer by the shape that 's in your head, and never mind the 
one that 's before your eyes." 

" Very well, I '11 try it ; but after I have learned it can I 
depend on it ? Will it keep the same form and not go fool- 
ing around ? " 

Before Mr. Bixby could answer, Mr. W came in to 

take the watch, and he said, — 

" Bixby, you '11 have to look out for President's Island 
and all that country clear away up above the Old Hen and 
Chickens. The banks are caving and the shape of the shores 
changing like everything. Why, you would n't know the 



point above 40. You can go up inside the old sycamore 
snag, now." J 

So that question was answered. 
Here were leagues of shore chang- 
ing shape. My spirits were down 
in the mud again. Two things 
seemed pretty apparent to me. 
One was, that in order to be a 
pilot a man had got to learn more 
than any one man ought to be 
allowed to know ; and the other 
was, that he must learn it all over 
again in a different way every 
twenty-four hours. 
That night we had the watch until twelve. Now it was an 

1 It may not be necessary, but still it can do no harm to explain that 
'inside" means between the snag and the shore. — M. T. 


ancient river custom for the two pilots to chat a bit when 
the watch changed. While the relieving pilot put on his 
gloves and lit his cigar, his partner, the retiring pilot, 
would say something like this : — 

" I judge the upper bar is making down a little at Hale's 
Point ; had quarter twain with the lower lead and mark 
twain 1 with the other." 

" Yes, I thought it was making down a little, last trip. 
Meet any boats ? " 

" Met one abreast the head of 21, but she was away over 
hugging the bar, and I could n't make her out entirely. I 
took her for the ' Sunny South ' — had n't any skylights 
forward of the chimneys." 

And so on. And as the relieving pilot took the wheel his 
partner 2 would mention that we were in such-and-such a 
bend, and say we were abreast of such-and-such a man's 
wood-yard or plantation. This was courtesy ; I supposed it 

was necessity. But Mr. W came on watch full twelve 

minutes late on this particular night, — a tremendous breach 
of etiquette ; in fact, it is the unpardonable sin among pilots. 
So Mr. Bixby gave him no greeting whatever, but simply 
surrendered the wheel and marched out of the pilot-house 
without a word. I was appalled ; it was a villanous night 
for blackness, we were in a particularly wide and blind part 
of the river, where there was no shape or substance to any- 
thing, and it seemed incredible that Mr. Bixby should have 
left that poor fellow to kill the boat trying to find out where 
he was. But I resolved that I would stand by him any way. 
He should find that he was not wholly friendless. So I 
stood around, and waited to be asked where we were. But 

Mr. W plunged on serenely through the solid firmament 

of black cats that stood for an atmosphere, and never opened 
his mouth. Here is a proud devil, thought I ; here is a limb 

1 Two fathoms. Quarter twain is 2| fathoms, 13* feet. Mark three is 
three fathoms. 

2 "Partner" is technical for " the other pilot." 



of Satan that would rather send us all to destruction than 
put himself under obligations to me, because I am not yet 
one of the salt of the earth and privileged to snub captains 
and lord it over everything dead and alive in a steamboat. 
I presently climbed up on the bench ; I did not think it was 
safe to go to sleep while this lunatic was on watch. 

However, I must have gone to sleep in the course of time, 
because the 
next thing I 
was aware 
of was the 
fact that 
day was 

Mr. W 

gone, and 
Mr. Bixby at 
the wheel 
again. So it 
was four o'- 
clock and all 
well — but 
me ; I felt 
like a skin- 
ful of dry 
bones and all 
ing to ache 

Mr. Bixby 
what I had 
there for. I 
was to do 
ol en ce, — 
It took five 
filter into 
then I judge it filled him nearly up to the chin ; because he 


of them try- 

at once. 

asked me 

stayed up 
confessed that it 

Mr. W a benev- 

tell him where he was. 
minutes for the entire 
ousness of the thing to 
Mr. Bixby's system, and 


paid me a compliment — and not much of a one either. 
Pie said, — 

" Well, taking you by-and-large, you do seem to be more 
different kinds of an ass than any creature I ever saw before. 
What did you suppose he wanted to know for ? " 

I said I thought it might be a convenience to him. 

" Convenience ! D-nation ! Did n't I tell you that a man 's 
got to know the river in the night the same as he 'd know 
his own front hall ? " 

" Well, I can follow the front hall in the dark if I know 
it is the front hall ; but suppose you set me down in the 
middle of it in the dark and not tell me which hall it is ; 
how am I to know ?" 

" Well, you 've got to, on the river ! " 

" All right. Then I 'm glad I never said anything to 
Mr. W " 

" I should say so. Why, he 'd have slammed you through 
the window and utterly ruined a hundred dollars' worth of 
window-sash and stuff." 

I was glad this damage had been saved, for it would have 
made me unpopular with the owners. They always hated 
anybody who had the name of being careless, and injuring 

I went to work now to learn the shape of the river ; and 
of all the eluding and ungraspable objects that ever I tried 
to get mind or hands on, that was the chief. I would fasten 
my eyes upon a sharp, wooded point that projected far into 
the river some miles ahead of me, and go to laboriously 
photographing its shape upon my brain ; and just as I was 
beginning to succeed to my satisfaction, we would draw up 
toward it and the exasperating thing would begin to melt 
away and fold back into the bank ! If there had been a 
conspicuous dead tree standing upon the very point of the 
cape, I would find that tree inconspicuously merged into the 
general forest, and occupying the middle of a straight shore, 
when I got abreast of it ! No prominent hill would stick to 



its shape long enough for me to make up my mind what its 
form really was, but it was as dissolving and changeful as 
if it had been a mountain of butter in the hottest corner of 
the tropics. Nothing ever had the same shape when I was 


coming down-stream that 
it had borne when I went 
up. I mentioned these little 
difficulties to Mr. Bixby. He said, — 

" That 's the very main virtue of the thing. If the shapes 
did n't change every three seconds they would n't be of any 
use. Take this place where we are now, for instance. As 
long as that hill over yonder is only one hill, I can boom 
right along the way I 'm going ; but the moment it splits at 
the top and forms a V, I know I 've got to scratch to star- 
board in a hurry, or I '11 bang this boat's brains out against 
a rock ; and then the moment one of the prongs of the V 


swings behind the other, I 've got to waltz to larboard again, 
or I'll have a misunderstanding with a snag that would 
snatch the keelson out of this steamboat as neatly as if it 
were a sliver in your hand. If that hill didn't change its 
shape on bad nights there would be an awful steamboat 
grave-yard around here inside of a year." 

It was plain that I had got to learn the shape of the river 
in all the different ways that could be thought of, — upside 
down, wrong end first, inside out, fore-and-aft, and " thort- 
ships," — and then know what to do on gray nights when it 
hadn't any shape at all. So I set about it. In the course 
of time I began to get the best of this knotty lesson, and 
my self-complacency moved to the front once more. Mr. 
Bixby was all fixed, and ready to start it to the rear again. 
He opened on me after this fashion : — 

" How much water did we have in the middle crossing at 
Hole-in-the-Wall, trip before last ? " 

I considered this an outrage. I said : — 

" Every trip, down and up, the leadsmen are singing- 
through that tangled place for three quarters of an hour on 
a stretch. How do you reckon I can remember such a mess 
as that ? " 

"My boy, you've got to remember it. You've got to 
remember the exact spot and the exact marks the boat lay 
in when we had the shoalest water, in every one of the five 
hundred shoal places between St. Louis and New Orleans; 
and you mustn't get the shoal soundings and marks of one 
trip mixed up with the shoal soundings and marks of another, 
either, for they're not often twice alike. You must keep 
them separate." 

When I came to myself again, I said, — 

" When I get so that I can do that, I '11 be able to raise 
the dead, and then I won't have to pilot a steamboat to make 
a living. I want to retire from this business. I want a 
slush-bucket and a brush ; I 'm only fit for a roustabout. I 
haven't got brains enough to be a pilot; and if I had I 



wouldn't have strength enough to carry them around, unless 
I went on crutches." 

" Now drop that ! When I say I '11 learn 1 a man the 
river, I mean it. And you can depend on it, I '11 learn him 
or kill him." 

1 " Teach " is not in the river vocabulary. 



' I ^HERE was no use in arguing with a person like this. 

■*• I promptly put such a strain on my memory that by even the shoal water and the countless crossing-marks 
began to stay with me. But the result was just the same. I 
never could more than get one knotty thing learned before 
another presented itself. Now I had often seen pilots gaz- 
ing at the water and pretending to read it as if it were a 
book ; but it was a book that told me nothing. A time 
came at last, however, when Mr. Bixby seemed to think me 
far enough advanced to bear a lesson on water-reading. So 
he began : — 

"Do you' see that long slanting line on the face of the 
water? Now, that's a reef. Moreover, it's a bluff reef. 
There is a solid sand-bar under it that is nearly as straight 
up and down as the side of a house. There is plenty of 
water close up to it, but mighty little on top of it. If you 
were to hit it you would knock the boat's brains out. Do 
you see where the line fringes out at the upper end and 
begins to fade away ? " 

" Yes, sir." 

" Well, that is a low place ; that is the head of the reef. 
You can climb over there, and not hurt anything. Cross 
over, now, and follow along close under the reef — easy 
water there — not much current." 

I followed the reef along till I approached the fringed end. 
Then Mr. Bixby said, — 

" Now get ready. Wait till I give the word. She won't 
want to mount the reef; a boat hates shoal water. Stand 



Now cramp her 

by — wait — wait — keep her well in hand 
down ! Snatch her ! snatch her ! " 

He seized the other side of the wheel and helped to spin 
it around until it was hard down, and then we held it so. 
The boat resisted, and refused to answer for a while, and 
next she came surging to starboard, mounted the reef, and 


sent a long, angry ridge of water foaming away from her 

" Now watch her ; watch her like a cat, or she '11 get 
away from you. When she fights strong and the tiller slips 
a little, in a jerky, greasy sort of way, let up on her a trifle ; 
it is the way she tells you at night that the water is too 



shoal ; but keep edging her up, little by little, toward the 
point. You are well up on the bar, now ; there is a 

bar under every 

point, because the 

water that comes down around 

it forms an eddy and allows 

the sediment to sink. Do you 

sec those fine lines on the 

face of the water that branch 

out like the ribs of a fan ? Well, those are little reefs ; 

you want to just miss the ends of them, but run them 

pretty close. Now look out — look out ! Don't you crowd 

"set her back. 


that slick, greasy-looking place ; there ain't nine feet there ; 
she won't stand it. She begins to smell it ; look sharp, I tell 
you ! Oh blazes, there you go ! Stop the starboard wheel ! 
Quick ! Ship up to back ! Set her back ! " 

The engine bells jingled and the engines answered promptly, 
shooting white columns of steam far aloft out of the 'scape 
pipes, but it was too late. The boat had " smelt" the bar in 
good earnest ; the foamy ridges that radiated from her bows 
suddenly disappeared, a great dead swell came rolling for- 
ward and swept ahead of her, she careened far over to lar- 
board, and went tearing away toward the other shore as if 
she were about scared to death. We were a good mile from 
where we ought to have been, when we finally got the upper 
hand of her again. 

During the afternoon watch the next day, Mr. Bixby asked 
me if I knew how to run the next few miles. I said : — 

" Go inside the first snag above the point, outside the next 
one, start out from the lower end of Higgins's wood-yard, 
make a square crossing and " — 

" That 's all right. I '11 be back before you close up on 
the next point." 

But he was n't. He was still below when I rounded it and 
entered upon a piece of river which I had some misgivings 
about. I did not know that he was hiding behind a chimney 
to see how I would perform. I went gayly along, getting 
prouder and prouder, for he had never left the boat in my 
sole charge such a length of time before. I even got to 
" setting " her and letting the wheel go, entirely, while I 
vaingloriously turned my back and inspected the stern marks 
and hummed a tune, a sort of easy indifference which I had 
prodigiously admired in Bixby and other great pilots. Once 
I inspected rather long, and when I faced to the front again- 
my heart flew into my mouth so suddenly that if I had n't 
clapped my teeth together I should have lost it. One of 
those frightful bluff reefs was stretching its deadly length 
right across our bows ! My head was gone in a moment ; I 


did not know which end I stood on ; I gasped and could not 
get my breath ; I spun the wheel down with such rapidity 
that it wove itself together like a spider's web ; the boat 
answered and turned square away from the reef, but the reef 
followed her ! I fled, and still it followed still it kept — 
right across my bows ! I never looked to see where I was 
going, I only fled. The awful crash was imminent — why 
did n't that villain come ! If I committed the crime of ring- 
ing a bell, I might get thrown overboard. But better that 
than kill the boat. So in blind desperation I started such a 
rattling " shivaree " down below as never had astounded an 
engineer in this world before, I fancy. Amidst the frenzy of 
the bells the engines began to back and fill in a furious way, 
and my reason forsook its throne — we were about to crash 
into the woods on the other side of the river. Just then Mr. 
Bixby stepped calmly into view on the hurricane deck. My 
soul went out to him in gratitude. My distress vanished ; I 
would have felt safe on the brink of Niagara, with Mr. Bixby 
on the hurricane deck. He blandly and sweetly took his 
tooth-pick out of his mouth between his fingers, as if it were 
a cigar, — we were just in the act of climbing an. overhang- 
ing big tree, and the passengers were scudding astern like 
rats, — and lifted up these commands to me ever so 
gently : — 

" Stop the starboard. Stop the larboard. Set her back 
on both." 

The boat hesitated, halted, pressed her nose among the 
boughs a critical instant, then reluctantly began to back 

" Stop the larboard. Come ahead on it. Stop the star- 
board. Come ahead on it. Point her for the bar." 

I sailed away as serenely as a summer's morning. Mr. 
Bixby came in and said, with mock simplicity, — 

" When you have a hail, my boy, you ought to tap the big 
bell three times before you land, so that the engineers can 
get ready." 



I blushed under the sarcasm, and said I had n't had any hail. 

"Ah ! Then it was for wood, I suppose. The officer of 
the watch will 

tell you when =3= l\ 

he wants to 
wood up." 

I went on con- 
suming, and 
said I was n't af- 
ter wood. 

" Indeed ? 
Why, what could 
you want over 
here in the bend, 
then ? Did you 
ever know of a 
boat following 
a bend up-stream 
at this stage of the river ? " 

" No, sir, — and I was n't try- 
ing to follow it. I was getting 
away from a bluff reef." 

" No, it was n't a bluff reef ; 
there isn't one within three 
miles of where you were." 

" But I saw it. It was as bluff 
as that one yonder." 

" Just about. Run over it ! " 

" Do you give it as an order ? " 

" Yes. Run over it." 

" If I don't, I wish I may die." 

" All right ; I am taking the 

I was just as anxious to kill the 
boat, now, as I had been to save 
her before. I impressed my orders upon my memory, to be 



used at the inquest, and made a straight break for the reef. 
As it disappeared under our bows I held my breath ; but we 
slid over it like oil. 

" Now don't you see the difference ? It was n't anything 
but a wind reef. The wind does that." 

" So I see. But it is exactly like a bluff reef. How am I 
ever going to tell them apart ? " 

" I can't tell you. It is an instinct. By and by you will 
just naturally know one from the other, but you never will be 
able to explain why or how you know them apart." 

It turned out to be true. The face of the water, in time, 
became a wonderful book — a book that was a dead language 
to the uneducated passenger, but which told its mind to me 
without reserve, delivering its most cherished secrets as 
clearly as if it uttered them with a voice. And it was not a 
book to be read once and thrown aside, for it had a new 
story to tell every day. Throughout the long twelve hun- 
dred miles there was never a page that was void of interest, 
never one that you could leave unread without loss, never 
one that you would want to skip, thinking you could find 
higher enjoyment in some other thing. There never was so 
wonderful a book written by man ; never one whose interest 
was so absorbing, so unflagging, so sparklingly renewed 
with every re-perusal. The passenger who could not read it 
was charmed with a peculiar sort of faint dimple on its sur- 
face (on the rare occasions when he did not overlook it 
altogether) ; but to the pilot that was an italicized passage ; 
indeed, it was more than that, it was a legend of the largest 
capitals, with a string of shouting exclamation points at the 
end of it ; for it meant that a wreck or a rock was buried there 
that could tear the life out of the strongest vessel that ever 
floated. It is the faintest and simplest expression the 
water ever makes, and the most hideous to a pilot's eye. 
In truth, the passenger who could not read this book saw 
nothing but all manner of pretty pictures in it, painted by 
the sun and shaded by the clouds, whereas to the trained eye 


these were not pictures at all, but the grimmest and most 
dead-earnest of reading-matter. 

Now when I had mastered the language of this water and 
had come to know every trifling feature that bordered the 
great river as familiarly as I knew the letters of the alpha- 
bet, I had made a valuable acquisition. But I had lost 
something, too. I had lost something which could never be 
restored to me while I lived. All the grace, the beauty, the 
poetry had gone out of the majestic river ! I still keep in 
mind a certain wonderful sunset which I witnessed when 
steamboating was new to me. A broad expanse of the river 
was turned to blood ; in the middle distance the red hue 
brightened into gold, through which a solitary log came 
floating, black and conspicuous ; in one place a long, slanting 
mark lay sparkling upon the water ; in another the surface 
was broken by boiling, tumbling rings, that were as many- 
tinted as an opal ; where the ruddy flush was faintest, was a 
smooth spot that was covered with graceful circles and radi- 
ating lines, ever so delicately traced ; the shore on our left 
was densely wooded, and the sombre shadow that fell from 
this forest was broken in one place by a long, ruffled trail 
that shone like silver ; and high above the forest wall a 
clean-stemmed dead tree waved a single leafy bough that 
glowed like a flame in the unobstructed splendor that was 
flowing from the sun. There were graceful curves, reflected 
images, woody heights, soft distances ; and over the whole 
scene, far and near, the dissolving lights drifted steadily, 
enriching it, every passing moment, with new marvels of 

I stood like one bewitched. I drank it in, in a speechless 
rapture. The world was new to me, and I had never seen 
anything like this at home. But as I have said, a day came 
when I began to cease from noting the glories and the charms 
which the moon and the sun and the twilight wrought upon 
the river's face ; another day came when I ceased altogether 
to note them. Then, if that sunset scene had beeen re- 



peated, I should have looked upon it without rapture, and 
should have commented upon it, inwardly, after this fashion : 
This sun means that we are going to have wind to-morrow ; 
that floating log means that the river is rising, small thanks 
to it ; that slanting mark on the water refers to a bluff reef 
which is going to kill somebody's steamboat one of these 
nights, if it keeps on stretching out like that ; those tum- 

bling " boils " show a dissolving 
bar and a changing channel 
there ; the lines and circles in 
the slick water over yonder are 
a warning that that troublesome 
place is shoaling up dangerously ; 
that silver streak in the shadow of the forest is the " break " 
from a new snag, and he has located himself in the very best 
place he could have found to fish for steamboats ; that tall 
dead tree, with a single living branch, is not going to last 
long, and then how is a, body ever going to get through this 
blind place at night without the friendly old landmark ? 

No, the romance and the beauty were all gone from the 
river. All the value any feature of it had for me now was 



the amount of usefulness it could furnish toward compassing 
the safe piloting of a steamboat. Since those days, I have 
pitied doctors from my heart. What does the lovely flush in 
a beauty's cheek mean to a doctor but a " break " that rip- 
ples above some deadly disease ? Are not all her visible 
charms sown thick with what are to him the signs and sym- 
bols of hidden decay ? Does he ever see her beauty at all, 
or does n't he simply view her professionally, and comment 
upon her unwholesome condition all to himself ? And does n't 
he sometimes wonder whether he has gained most or lost 
most by learning his trade ? 



WHOSOEVER has done me the courtesy to read my 
chapters which have preceded this may possibly 
wonder that I deal so minutely with piloting as a science. 
It was the prime purpose of those chapters ; and I am not 
quite done yet. I wish to show, in the most patient and 
painstaking way, what a wonderful science it is. Ship 
channels are buoyed and lighted, and therefore it is a com- 
paratively easy undertaking to learn to run them ; clear- 
water rivers, with gravel bottoms, change their channels 
very gradually, and therefore one needs to learn them but 
once ; but piloting becomes another matter when you apply 
it to vast streams like the Mississippi and the Missouri, 
whose alluvial banks cave and change constantly, whose 
snags are always hunting up new quarters, whose sand- 
bars are never at rest, whose channels are forever dodging 
and shirking, and whose obstructions must be confronted 
in all nights and all weathers without the aid of a single 
light-house or a single buoy ; for there is neither light nor 
buoy to be found anywhere in all this three or four thousand 
miles of villanous river. 1 I feel justified in enlarging upon 
this great science for the reason that I feel sure no one has 
ever yet written a paragraph about it who had piloted a 
steamboat himself, and so had a practical knowledge of the 
subject. If the theme were hackneyed, I should be obliged 
to deal gently with the reader ; but since it is wholly new, 

1 True at the time referred to ; not true now (1882). 



I have felt at liberty to take up a considerable degree of 
room with it. 

When I had learned the name and position of every visible 
feature of the river; when I had so mastered its shape that 
I could shut my eyes and trace it from St. Louis to New 
Orleans ; when I had learned to read the face of the water 
as one would cull the news from the morning paper ; and 
finally, when I had trained my dull memory to treasure up 
an endless array of soundings and crossing-marks, and keep 
fast hold of them, I judged that my education was complete : 
so I got to tilting my cap 
to the side of my head, 
and wearing a toothpick 
in my mouth at the 
wheel. Mr. Bixby had 
his eye on these airs. 
One day he said, — 

" What is the height 
of that bank yonder, at 
Burgess's ? " 

" How can I tell, sir ? 
It is three quarters of a 
mile away." 

" Very poor eye — 
very poor. Take the 

I took the glass, and 
presently said, — 

" I can't tell. I suppose that that bank is about a foot 
and a half high." 

" Foot and a half ! That 's a six-foot bank. How high 
was the bank along here last trip ? " 

" I don't know ; I never noticed." 

" You did n't ? Well, you must always do it hereafter." 

" Why ? " 

" Because you '11 have to know a good many things that 




it tells you. For one thing, it tells you the stage of the 
river — tells you whether there 's more water or less in 
the river along here than there was last trip." 

" The leads tell me that." I rather thought I had the 
advantage of him there. 

" Yes, but suppose the leads lie ? The bank would tell 
you so, and then you 'd stir those leadsmen up a bit. There 
was a ten-foot bank here last trip, and there is only a six- 
foot bank now. What does that signify ? " 

" That the river is four feet higher than it was last trip." 

" Very good. Is 
the river rising or 
falling ? " 
" Rising." 
" No it ain't." 
" I guess I am 
right, sir. Yon- 
der is some drift- 
wood floating 
down the stream." 
" A rise starts 
the drift-wood, but 
then it keeps on 
floating a while 
after the river is 
done rising. Now 
the bank will tell 
you about this. 
Wait till you come 
to a place where it 
shelves a little. Now here ; do you see this narrow belt of 
line sediment ? That was deposited while the water was 
higher. You see the drift-wood begins to strand, too. The 
bank helps in other ways. Do you see that stump on the 
false point ? " 
" Ay, ay, sir." 



" Well, the water is just up to the roots of it. You must 
make a note of that." 

« Why ? " 

" Because that means that there 's seven feet in the chute 
of 103." 

" But 103 is a long way up the river yet." 

" That 's where the benefit of the bank comes in. There 
is water enough in 103 now, yet there may not be by the 
time we get there ; but the bank will keep us posted all 
along. You don't run close chutes on a falling river, up- 
stream, and there are precious few of them that you are 
allowed to run at all down-stream. There 's a law of the 
United States against it. The river may be rising by the 
time we get to 103, and in that case we '11 run it. We are 
drawing — how much ? " 

" Six feet aft, — six and a half forward." 

" Well, you do seem to know something." 

" But what I particularly want to know is, if I have got to 
keep up an everlasting measuring of the banks of this river, 
twelve hundred miles, month in and month out ? " 

" Of course ! " 

My emotions were too deep for words for a while. Pres- 
ently I said, — 

" And how about these chutes ? Are there many of 
them ? " 

" I should say so. I fancy we shan't run any of the river 
this trip as you 've ever seen it run before — so to speak. 
If the river begins to rise again, we '11 go up behind bars 
that you 've always seen standing out of the river, high and 
dry like the roof of a house ; we '11 cut across low places 
that you 've never noticed at all, right through the middle of 
bars that cover three hundred acres of river ; we '11 creep 
through cracks where you 've always thought was solid land ; 
we '11 dart through the woods and leave twenty-five miles of 
river off to one side ; we '11 see the hind-side of every island 
between New Orleans and Cairo." 


" Then I 've got to go to work and learn just as much 
more river as I already know." 

" Just about twice as much more, as near as you can come 
at it," 

" Well, one lives to find out. I think I was a fool when 
I went into this business." 

" Yes, that is true. And you are yet. But you '11 not be 
when you 've learned it." 

" Ah, I never can learn it." 

" I will see that you do." 

By and by I ventured again : — 

" Have I got to learn all this thing just as I know the rest of 
the river — shapes and all — and so I can run it atliight ?" 

" Yes. And you 've got to have good fair marks from one 
end of the river to the other, that will help the bank tell you 
when there is water enough in each of these countless places, 
— like that stump, you know. When the river first begins 
to rise, you can run half a dozen of the deepest of them ; 
when it rises a foot more you can run another dozen ; the 
next foot will acid a couple of dozen, and so on : so you see 
you have to know your banks and marks to a dead moral 
certainty, and never get them mixed ; for when you start 
through one of those cracks, there 's no backing out again, 
as there is in the big river ; you 've got to go through, or 
stay there six months if you get caught on a falling river. 
There are about fifty of these cracks which you can't run at 
all except when the river is brim full and over the banks." 

" This new lesson is a cheerful prospect." 

" Cheerful enough. And mind what I 've just told you ; 
when you start into one of those places you 've got to go 
through. They are too narrow to turn around in, too 
crooked to back out of, and the shoal water is always up 
at the head; never elsewhere. And the head of them is 
always likely to be filling up, little by little, so that the 
marks you reckon their depth by, this season, may not 
answer for next." 




" Learn a new set, then, every year ? " 

"Exactly. Cramp her up to the bar! What are you 
standing up through the middle of the river for ? " 

The next few months showed me strange things. On the 
same day that we held the conversation above narrated, we 
met a great rise coming down the river. The whole vast 
face of the stream was black with drifting dead logs, broken 
boughs, and great trees that had caved in and been washed 
away. It required the nicest steering to pick one's way 

through this rushing raft, even 
in the day-time, when crossing 
from point to point ; and at night 
the difficulty was mightily in- 
creased ; every now and then 
a huge log, lying deep in the 
water, would suddenly appear 

right under our bows, coming head-on ; no use to try to 
avoid it then ; we could only stop the engines, and one 
wheel would walk over that log from one end to the other, 
keeping up a thundering racket and careening the boat in a 
way that was very uncomfortable to passengers. Now and 
then we would hit one of these sunken logs a rattling bang, 
dead in the centre, with a full head of steam, and it would 
stun the boat as if she had hit a continent. Sometimes this 
log would lodge, and stay right across our nose, and back the 



Mississippi up before it ; we would have to do a little craw- 
fishing, then, to get away from the obstruction. We often 
hit white logs, in the dark, for we could not see them till 
we were right on them; but a black log is a pretty dis- 
tinct object at night. A white snag is an ugly customer 
when the daylight is gone. 

Of course, on the great rise, down came a swarm of pro- 
digious timber-rafts from the head waters of the Missis- 
sippi, coal barges from Pittsburgh, little trading scows from 
everywhere, and broad-horns from " Posey County," Indiana, 
freighted with " fruit and furniture " — the usual term for 
describing it, though in plain English the freight thus aggran- 
dized was hoop-poles and pumpkins. Pilots bore a mortal 
hatred to these craft ; and it was returned with usury. The 
law required all such helpless traders to keep a light burn- 
ing, but it was a law that was often broken. All of a sudden, 
on a murky night, a light would hop up, right under our 
bows, almost, and an agonized voice, with the backwoods 
" whang " to it, would wail out : — 

" Whar 'n the you goin' to ! Cain't you see nothin', 

you dash-dashed aig-suckin', sheep-stealin', one-eyed son of 
a stuffed monkey ! " 

Then for an instant, as we whistled by, the red glare 
from our furnaces would reveal the scow and the form of 
the gesticulating orator as if under a lightning-flash, and 
in that instant our firemen and deck-hands would send 
and receive a tempest of missiles and profanity, one of our 
wheels would walk off with the crashing fragments of a 
steering-oar, and down the dead blackness would shut again. 
And that flatboatman would be sure to go into New Orleans 
and sue our boat, swearing stoutly that he had a light burn- 
ing all the time, when in truth his gang had the lantern down 
below to sing and lie and drink and gamble by, and no watch 
on deck. Once, at night, in one of those forest-bordered 
crevices (behind an island) which steamboatmen intensely 
describe with the phrase " as dark as the inside of a cow," 



we should have eaten up a Posey County family, fruit, fur- 
niture, and all, but that they happened to be fiddling down 
below and we just caught the sound of the music in time to 


sheer off, doing no seri- 
ous damage, unfortu- 
nately, but coming so near 
it that we had good hopes 
for a moment. These 
people brought up their 
lantern, then, of course ; 
and as we backed and filled 
to get away, the precious 
family stood in the light of it — both sexes and various ages 
— and cursed us till everything turned blue. Once a coal- 
boatman sent a bullet through our pilot-house, when we bor- 
rowed a steering-oar of him in a very narrow place. * 



DURING this big rise these small-fry craft were an 
intolerable nuisance. We were running chute after 
chute, — a new world to me, — and if there was a particu- 
larly cramped place in a chute, we would be prett} 7 " sure to 
meet a broad-horn there ; and if he failed to be there, we 
would find him in a still worse locality, namely, the head 
of the chute, on the shoal water. And then there would be 
no end of profane cordialities exchanged. 

Sometimes, in the big river, when we would be feeling our 
way cautiously along through a fog, the deep hush would 
suddenly be broken by yells and a clamor of tin pans, and 
all in an instant a log raft would appear vaguely through the 
webby veil, close upon us ; and then we did not wait to swap 
knives, but snatched our engine bells out by the roots and 
piled on all the steam we had, to scramble out of the way ! 
One does n't hit a rock or a solid log raft with a steamboat 
when he can get excused. 

You will hardly believe it, but many steamboat clerks 
always carried a large assortment of religious tracts with 
them in those old departed steamboating days. Indeed they 
did. Twenty times a day we would be cramping up. around 
a bar, while a string of these small-fry rascals were drifting 
down into the head of the bend away above and beyond us a 
couple of miles. Now a skiff would dart away from one of 
them, and come fighting its laborious way across the desert of 
water. It would " ease all," in the shadow of our forecastle, 



and the panting oarsmen would shout, "Gimme a pa-a-per ! " 
as the skiff drifted swiftly astern. The clerk would throw 
over a file of New Orleans journals. If these were picked up 
without comment, you might notice that now a dozen other 
skiffs had been drifting down upon us without saying any- 

"tbact distributing:' 

thing. You understand, they 
1 ""%:- — -rv_. had been waiting to see how 

No. 1 was going to fare. No. 1 
making no comment, all the rest would bend to their oars 
and come on, now ; and as fast as they came the clerk would 
heave over neat bundles of religious tracts, tied to shingles. 
The amount of hard swearing which twelve packages of reli- 
gious literature will command when impartially divided up 
among twelve raftsmen's crews, who have pulled a heavy skiff 
two miles on a hot day to get them, is simply incredible. 


As I have said, the big rise brought a new world under my 
vision. By the time the river was over its banks we had 
forsaken our old paths and were hourly climbing over bars 
that had stood ten feet out of water before ; we were shaving 
stumpy shores, like that at the foot of Madrid Bend, which 
I had always seen avoided before; we were clattering through 
chutes like that of 82, where the opening at the foot was an 
unbroken wall of timber till our nose was almost at the very 
spot. Some of these chutes were utter solitudes. The dense, 
untouched forest overhung both banks of the crooked little 
crack, and one could believe that human creatures had never 
intruded there before. The swinging grape-vines, the grassy 
nooks and vistas glimpsed as we swept by, the flowering 
creepers waving their reel blossoms from the tops of dead 
trunks, and all the spendthrift richness of the forest foliage, 
were wasted and thrown away there. The chutes were lovely 
places to steer in ; they were deep, except at the head ; the 
current was gentle ; under the " points " the water was 
absolutely dead, and the invisible banks so bluff that where 
the tender willow thickets projected you could bury your 
boat's broadside in them as you tore along, and then you 
seemed fairly to fly. 

Behind other islands we found wretched little farms, and 
wretcheder little log-cabins ; there were crazy rail fences 
sticking a foot or two above the water, with one or two jeans- 
clad, chills-racked, yellow-faced male miserables roosting on 
the top-rail, elbows on knees, jaws in hands, grinding tobacco 
and discharging the result at floating chips through crevices 
left by lost teeth ; while the rest of the family and the few 
farm-animals were huddled together in an empty wood-flat 
riding at her moorings close at hand. In this flatboat the 
family would have to cook and eat and sleep for a lesser or 
greater number of days (or possibly weeks), until the river 
should fall two or three feet and let them get back to their 
log-cabin and their chills again — chills being a merciful 
provision of an all-wise Providence to enable them to take 



exercise without exertion. And this sort of watery camping 
out was a thing which these people were rather liable to be 
treated to a couple of times a year : by the December rise 
out of the Ohio, and the June rise out of the Mississippi. 
And yet these were kindly dispensations, for they at least 

"yellow-faced miserables." 

enabled the poor things to rise from the dead now and then, 
and look upon life when a steamboat went by. They appre- 
ciated^ the blessing, too, for they spread their mouths and 
eyes wide open and made the most of these occasions. Now 
what could these banished creatures find to do to keep from 
dying of the blues during the low-water season ! 


Once, in one of these lovely island chutes, we found our 
course completely bridged by a great fallen tree. This will 
serve to show how narrow some of the chutes were. The 
passengers had an hour's recreation in a virgin wilderness, 
while the boat-hands chopped the bridge away ; for there was 
no such thing as turning back, you comprehend. 

From Cairo to Baton Rouge, when the river is over its 
banks, you have no particular trouble in the night, for the 
thousand-mile wall of dense forest that guards the two 
banks all the way is only gapped with a farm or wood-yard 
opening at intervals, and so you can't " get out of the river " 
much easier than you could get out of a fenced lane ; but 
from Baton Rouge to New Orleans it is a different matter. 
The river is more than a mile wide, and very deep — as much 
as two hundred feet, in places. Both banks, for a good deal 
over a hundred miles, are shorn of their timber and bordered 
by continuous sugar plantations, with only here and there a 
scattering sapling or row of ornamental China-trees. The 
timber is shorn off clear to the rear of the plantations, from 
two to four miles. When the first frost threatens to come, 
the planters snatch off their crops in a hurry. When they 
have finished grinding the cane, they form the refuse of the 
stalks (which they call bagasse) into great piles and set fire 
to them, though in other sugar countries the bagasse is used 
for fuel in the furnaces of the sugar mills. Now the piles of 
damp bagasse burn slowly, and smoke like Satan's own 

An embankment ten or fifteen feet high guards both banks 
of the Mississippi all the way down that lower end of the 
river, and this embankment is set back from the edge of 
the shore from ten to perhaps a hundred feet, according to 
circumstances ; say thirty or forty feet, as a general thing. 
Fill that whole region with an impenetrable gloom of smoke 
from a hundred miles of burning bagasse piles, when the 
river is over the banks, and turn a steamboat loose along 
there at midnight and see how she will feel. And see how 



you will feel, too ! You find yourself away out in the midst 
of a vague dim sea that is shoreless, that fades out and loses 
itself in the murky distances ; for you cannot discern the 
thin rib of embankment, and you are always imagining you 
see a straggling tree when you don't. The plantations them- 
selves are transformed by the smoke, and look like a part of 
the sea. All through your watch you are tortured with the 
exquisite misery of uncertainty. You hope you are keeping 
in the river, but you do not know. All that you are sure 
about is that you are likely to be within six feet of the bank 


and destruction, when you think you are a good half-mile 
from shore. And you are sure, also, that if you chance 
suddenly to fetch up against the embankment and topple 
your chimneys overboard, you will have the small comfort of 
knowing that it is about what you were expecting to do. 
One of the great Vicksburg packets darted out into a sugar 
plantation one night, at such a time, and had to stay there 
a week. But there was no novelty about it ; it had often 
been done before. 

I thought I had finished this chapter, but I wish to add a 
curious thing, while it is in my mind. It is only relevant in 
that it is connected with piloting. There used to be an 
excellent pilot on the river, a Mr. X., who was a somnambu- 


list. It was said that if his mind was troubled about a bad 
piece of river, he was pretty sure to get up and walk in his 
sleep and do strange things. He was once fellow-pilot for a 
trip or two with George Ealer, on a great New Orleans 
passenger packet. During a considerable part of the first 
trip George was uneasy, but got over it by and by, as X. 
seemed content to stay in his bed when asleep. Late one 
night the boat was approaching Helena, Arkansas ; the water 
was low, and the crossing above the town in a very blind and 
tangled condition. X. had seen the crossing since Ealer 
had, and as the night was particularly drizzly, sullen, and 
dark, Ealer was considering whether he had not better have 
X. called to assist in running the place, when the door 
opened and X. walked in. Now on very dark nights, light 
is a deadly enemy to piloting ; you are aware that if you 
stand in a lighted room, on such a night, you cannot see 
things in the street to any purpose ; but if you put out the 
lights and stand in the gloom you can make out objects in 
the street pretty well. So, on very dark nights, pilots do 
not smoke ; they allow no fire in the pilot-house stove if there 
is a crack which can allow the least ray to escape ; they order 
the furnaces to be curtained with huge tarpaulins and the 
sky-lights to be closely blinded. Then no light whatever 
issues from the boat. The undefinable shape that now 
entered the pilot-house had Mr. X.'s voice. This said, — 

" Let me take her, George ; I 've seen this place since you 
have, and it is so crooked that I reckon I can run it myself 
easier than I could tell you how to do it." 

" It is kind of you, and I swear I am willing. I have n't 
got another drop of perspiration left in me. I have been 
spinning around and around the wheel like a squirrel. It is 
so dark I can't tell which way she is swinging till she is 
coming around like a whirligig." 

So Ealer took a seat on the bench, panting and breathless. 
The black phantom assumed the wheel without saying 
anything, steadied the waltzing steamer with a turn or two, 



and then stood at ease, coaxing her a little to this side and 
then to that, as gently and as sweetly as if the time had 
been noonday. When Ealer observed this marvel of steering, 


he wished he had not con- 
fessed ! He stared, and won- 
dered, and finally said, — 
" Well, I thought I knew 
how to steer a steamboat, but that was another mistake of 

X. said nothing, but went serenely on with his work. He 
rang for the leads ; he rang to slow down the steam ; he 
worked the boat carefully and neatly into invisible marks, 
then stood at the centre of the wheel and peered blandly out 
into the blackness, fore and aft, to verify his position ; as 
the leads shoaled more and more, he stopped the engines 



entirely, and the dead silence and suspense of "drifting" 
followed ; when the shoalest water was struck, he cracked on 
the steam, carried her handsomely over, and then began to 

work her warily into 
the next system of 
shoal marks ; the 
same patient, heed- 
ful use of leads and 
engines followed, 
the boat slipped 
through without 
touching bot- 
tom, and en- 
tered upon 
the third 
and last 


cacy of the crossing ; imperceptibly she moved through the 
gloom, crept by inches into her marks, drifted tediously till 


the shoalest water was cried, and then, under a tremendous 
head of steam, went swinging over the reef and away into 
deep water and safety ! 

Ealer let his long-pent breath pour out in a great, relieving 
sigh, and said : — 

" That 's the sweetest piece of piloting that was ever done 
on the Mississippi River ! I would n't believed it could be 
done, if I had n't seen if." 

There was no reply, and he added : — 

" Just hold her five minutes longer, partner, and let me run 
down and get a cup of coffee." 

A minute later Ealer was biting into a pie, down in the 
" texas," and comforting himself with coffee. Just then 
the night watchman happened in, and was about to happen 
out again, when he noticed Ealer and exclaimed, — 

" Who is at the wheel, sir ? " 

" X." 

" Dart for the pilot-house, quicker than lightning ! " 

The next moment both men were flying up the pilot-house 
companion-way, three steps at a jump ! Nobody there ! The 
great steamer was whistling down the middle of the river at 
her own sweet will ! The watchman shot out of the place 
again; Ealer seized the wheel, set an engine back with power, 
and held his breath while the boat reluctantly swung away 
from a " towhead " which she was about to knock into the 
middle of the Gulf of Mexico ! 

By and by the watchman came back and said, — 

" Did n't that lunatic tell you he was asleep, when he first 
came up here ? " 

« No." 

" Well, he was. I found him walking along on top of the 
railings, just as unconcerned as another man would walk a 
pavement ; and I put him to bed ; now just this minute there 
he was again, away astern, going through that sort of tight- 
rope deviltry the same as before." 

" Well, I think I '11 stay by, next time he has one of those 



fits. But I hope he '11 have them often. You just ought to 
have seen him take this boat through Helena crossing. 1 
never saw anything so gaudy before. And if he can do such 
gold-leaf, kid-glove, diamond-breastpin piloting when he is 
sound asleep, what could nH he do if he was dead ! " 



WHEN the river is very low, and one's steamboat is 
" drawing all the water " there is in the channel, — 
or a few inches more, as was often the case in the old times, 
— one must be painfully circumspect in his piloting. We 

used to have to " sound" a number of particularly bad place? 
almost every trip when the river was at a very low stage. 


Sounding is done in this way. The boat ties up at the 
shore, just above the shoal crossing; the pilot not on watch 
takes his " cub " or steersman and a picked crew of men 
(sometimes an officer also), and goes out in the yawl — 
provided the boat has not that rare and sumptuous luxury, 
a regularly-devised " sounding-boat " — and proceeds to hunt 
for the best water, the pilot on duty watching his movements 
through a spy-glass, meantime, and in some instances assist- 
ing by signals of the boat's whistle, signifying " try higher 
up " or " try lower down ; " for the surface of the water, 
like an oil-painting, is more expressive and intelligible when 
inspected from a little distance than very close at hand. 
The whistle signals are seldom necessary, however ; never, 
perhaps, except when the wind confuses the significant rip- 
ples upon the water's surface. When the yawl has reached 
the shoal place, the speed is slackened, the pilot begins to 
sound the depth with a pole ten or twelve feet long, and the 
steersman at the tiller obeys the order to " hold her up to 
starboard ; " or " let her fall off to larboard ; " 1 or " steady 
— steady as you go." 

When the measurements indicate that the yawl is approach- 
ing the shoalest part of the reef, the command is given to 
" ease all ! " Then the men stop rowing and the yawl drifts 
with the current. The next order is, " Stand by with the 
buoy ! " The moment the shallowest point is reached, the 
pilot delivers the order, " Let go the buoy ! " and over she 
goes. If the pilot is not satisfied, he sounds the place again ; 
if he finds better water higher up or lower down, he removes 
the buoy to that place. Being finally satisfied, he gives the 
order, and all the men stand their oars straight up in the 
air, in line ; a blast from the boat's whistle indicates that 
the signal has been seen ; then the men "give way " on their 
oars and lay the yawl alongside the buoy ; the steamer comes 
creeping carefully down, is pointed straight at the buoy, 

1 The term " larboard " is never used at sea, now, to signify the left hand ; 
but was always used on the river in my time. 


husbands her power for the coming struggle, and presently, 
at the critical moment, turns on all her steam and goes 
grinding and wallowing over the buoy and the sand, and 
gains the deep water beyond. Or maybe she doesn't; maybe 
she " strikes and swings." Then she has to while away sev- 
eral hours (or days) sparring herself off. 

Sometimes a buoy is not laid at all, but the yawl goes 
ahead, hunting the best water, and the steamer follows along 
in its wake. Often there is a deal of fun and excitement 
about sounding, especially if it is a glorious summer day, or 
a blustering night. But in winter the cold and the peril 
take most of the fun out of it. 

A buoy is nothing but a board four or five feet long, with 
one end turned up ; it is a reversed school-house bench, 
with one of the supports left and the other removed. It is 
anchored on the shoalest part of the reef by a rope With a 
heavy stone made fast to the end of it. But for the resist- 
ance of the turned-up end of the reversed bench, the current 
would pull the buoy under water. At night, a paper lantern 
with a candle in it is fastened on top of the buoy, and this 
can be seen a mile or more, a little glimmering spark in the 
waste of blackness. 

Nothing delights a cub so much as an opportunity to go 
out sounding. There is such an air of adventure about it ; 
often there is danger ; it is so gaudy and man-of-war-like to 
sit up in the stern-sheets and steer a swift yawl ; there is 
something fine about the exultant spring of the boat when 
an experienced old sailor crew throw their souls into the 
oars ; it is lovely to see the white foam stream away from 
the bows ; there is music in the rush of the water ; it is 
deliciously exhilarating, in summer, to go speeding over the 
breezy expanses of the river when the world of wavelets is 
dancing in the sun. It is such grandeur, too, to the cub, to 
get a chance to give an order ; for often the pilot will simply 
say, " Let her go about ! " and leave the rest to the cub, who 
instantly cries, in his sternest tone of command, " Ease star- 



board ! Strong on the larboard ! Starboard give way ! With 
a will, men ! " The cub enjoys sounding for the further 
reason that the eyes of the passengers are watching all the 
yawl's movements with absorbing interest if the time be 
daylight ; and if it be night he knows that those same won- 
dering eyes are fastened upon the yawl's lantern as it glides 
out into the gloom and dims away in the remote distance. 

One trip a pretty girl of sixteen spent her time in our 
pilot-house with her uncle and aunt, every day and all day 
long. I fell in love with her. So did Mr. Thornburg's cub, 

Tom G . Tom and I had been bosom friends until this 

time ; but now a coolness began to arise. I told the girl a 
good many of my river adventures, and made myself out a 
good deal of a hero ; Tom tried to make himself appear to 
be a hero, too, and succeeded to some extent, but then he 
always had a way of embroidering. However, virtue is its 
own reward, so I was a barely perceptible trifle ahead in the 
contest. About this time something happened which prom- 
ised handsomely for me : the pilots decided to sound the 
crossing at the head of 21. This would occur about nine or 
ten o'clock at night, when the passengers would be still up ; 
it would be Mr. Thornburg's watch, therefore my chief would 
have to do the sounding. We had a perfect love of a sound- 
ing-boat — long, trim, graceful, and as fleet as a greyhound ; 
her thwarts were cushioned ; she carried twelve oarsmen ; 
one of the mates was always sent in her to transmit orders 
to her crew, for ours was a steamer where no end of " style " 
was put on. 

We tied up at the shore above 21, and got ready. It 
was a foul night, and the river was so wide, there, that a 
landsman's uneducated eyes could discern no opposite shore 
through such a gloom. The passengers were alert and inter- 
ested; everything was satisfactory. As I hurried through 
the engine-room, picturesquely gotten up in storm toggery, 
I met Tom, and could not forbear delivering myself of a 
mean speech : — 



" Ain't you glad you don't have to go out sounding ? " 

Tom was passing on, but he quickly turned, and said, — 

" Now just for that, you can go and get the sounding-pole 
yourself. I was going after it, but I 'd see you in Halifax, 
now, before I 'd do it." 

" Who wants you to get it ? I 
don't. It 's in the sounding-boat." 

" It ain't, either. It 's been new- 
painted ; and it 's been 
up on the ladies cabin 
guards two days, dry- 

I flew 
back, and 

the crowd of watch- 
ing and wondering 
ladies just in time to 
hear the command : 

" Give way, men ! " 

I looked over, and 
there was the gallant 
sounding-boat boom- 
ing away, the unprin- 
cipled Tom presiding 
at the tiller, and my 
chief sitting by him 
with the sounding- " oh, how awhi: 

pole which I had been sent on a fool's errand to fetch. Then 
that young girl said to me, — 

" Oh, how awful to have to go out in that little boat on 
such a night ! Do you think there is any danger ? " 

I would rather have been stabbed. I went off, full of 
venom, to help in the pilot-house. By and by the boat's 

148 RUN DOWN. 

lantern disappeared, and after an interval a wee spark 
glimmered upon the face of the water a mile away. Mr. 
Thornburg blew the whistle, in acknowledgment, backed the 
steamer out, and made for it. We flew along for a while, 
then slackened steam and went cautiously gliding toward 
the spark. Presently Mr. Thornburg exclaimed, — 

" Hello, the buoy-lantern 's out ! " 

He stopped the engines. A moment or two later he 
said, — 

" Why, there it is again ! " 

So he came ahead on the engines once more, and rang for 
the leads. Gradually the water shoaled up, and then began 
to deepen again ! Mr. Thornburg muttered : — 

" Well, T don't understand this. I believe that buoy has 
drifted off the reef. Seems to be a little too far to the left. 
No matter, it is safest to run over it, anyhow." 

So, in that solid world of darkness we went creeping down 
on the light. Just as our bows were in the act of plowing 
over it, Mr. Thornburg seized the bell-ropes, rang a startling 
peal, and exclaimed, — 

" My soul, it 's the sounding-boat ! " 

A sudden chorus of wild alarms burst out far below — a 
pause — and then a sound of grinding and crashing followed. 
Mr. Thornburg exclaimed, — 

" There ! the paddle-wheel has ground the sounding-boat 
to lucifer matches ! Run ! See who is killed ! " 

I was on the main deck in the twinkling of an eye. My 
chief and the third mate and nearly all the men were safe. 
They had discovered their danger when it was too late to 
pull out of the way ; then, when the great guards overshad- 
owed them a moment later, they were prepared and knew 
what to do; at my chief's order they sprang at the right 
instant, seized the guard, and were hauled aboard. The 
next moment the sounding-yawl swept aft to the wheel and 
was struck and splintered to atoms. Two of the men and 
the cub Tom, were missing — a fact which spread like wild- 


fire over the boat. The passengers came flocking to the 
forward gangway, ladies and all, anxious-eyed, white-faced, 
and talked in awed voices of the dreadful thing. And often 
and again I heard them say, " Poor fellows ! poor boy, poor 
boy ! " 

By this time the boat's yawl was manned and away, to 
seai;ch for the missing. Now a faint call was heard, off to 
the left. The yawl had disappeared in the other direction. 
Half the people rushed to one side to encourage the swim- 
mer with their shouts ; the other half rushed the other way 
to shriek to the yawl to turn about. By the callings, the 
swimmer was approaching, but some said the sound showed 
failing strength. The crowd massed themselves against the 
boiler-deck railings, leaning over and staring into the gloom; 
and every faint and fainter cry wrung from them such words 
as " Ah, poor fellow, poor fellow ! is there no way to save 

But still the cries held out, and drew nearer, and pres- 
ently the voice said pluckily, — 

" I can make it ! Stand by with a rope ! " 

What a rousing cheer they gave him ! The chief mate 
took his stand in the glare of a torch-basket, a coil of rope 
in his hand, and his men grouped about him. The next 
moment the swimmer's face appeared in the circle of light, 
and in another one the owner of it was hauled aboard, limp 
and drenched, while cheer on cheer went up. It was that 
devil Tom. 

The yawl crew searched everywhere, but found no sign of 
the two men. They probably failed to catch the guard, tum- 
bled back, and were struck by the wheel and killed. Tom 
had never jumped for the guai'd at all, but had plunged 
head-nrst into the river and dived under the wheel. It was 
nothing ; I could have done it easy enough, and I said so ; 
but everybody went on just the same, making a wonderful 
to-do over that ass, as if he had done something great. That 
girl could n't seem to have enough of that pitiful " hero " 



the rest of the trip ; but little I cared ; I loathed her, any 

The way we came to mistake the sounding-boat's lantern 


for the buoy-light was 
this. My chief said that 
after laying the buoy he 
fell away and watched it 
till it seemed to be se- 
cure ; then he took up a 
position a hundred yards below it and a little to one side of 
the steamer's course, headed the sounding-boat up-stream, 




and waited. Having to wait some time, he and the officer 
got to talking ; he looked up when he judged that the 
steamer was about on the reef ; saw that the buoy was gone, 
but supposed that the steamer had already run over it ; he 
went on with his talk ; he noticed that the steamer was get- 
ting very close down on him, but that was the correct thing ; 
it was her business to shave him closely, for convenience in 
taking him aboard ; he was expecting her to sheer off, until 
the last moment ; then it flashed upon him that she was try- 
ing to run him down, mistaking his lantern for the buoy- 
light; so he sang out, "Standby to spring for the guard, 
men ! " and the next instant the jump was made. 



BUT I am wandering from what I was intending to do, 
that is, make plainer than perhaps appears in the 
previous chapters, some of the peculiar requirements of the 
science of piloting. First of all, there is one faculty which 
a pilot must incessantly cultivate until he has brought it to 
absolute perfection. Nothing short of perfection will do. 
That faculty is memory. He cannot stop with merely think- 
ing a thing is so and so ; he must know it ; for this is emi- 
nently one of the " exact " sciences. With what scorn a 
pilot was looked upon, in the old times, if he ever ventured 
to deal in that feeble phrase " I think," instead of the vigor- 
ous one " I know ! " One cannot easily realize what a tre- 
mendous thing it is to know every trivial detail of twelve 
hundred miles of river and know it with absolute exactness. 
If you will take the longest street in New York, and travel 
up and down it, conning its features patiently until you 
know every house and window and door and lamp-post and 
big and little sign by heart, and know them so accurately 
that you can instantly name the one you are abreast of when 
you are set down at random in that street in the middle of 
an inky black night, you will then have a tolerable notion of 
the amount and the exactness of a pilot's knowledge who 
carries the Mississippi River in his head. And then if you 
will go on until you know every street crossing, the charac- 
ter, size, and position of the crossing-stones, and the varying 
depth of mud in each of those numberless places, you will 



have some idea of what the pilot must know in order to 
keep a Mississippi steamer out of trouble. Next, if you will 
take half of the 
signs in that long- 
street, and change 
their places once a 
month, and still 
manage to know 
their new positions 
accurately on dark 
nights, and keep up 
with these repeated 
changes without 
making any mis- 
takes, you will un- 
derstand what is 
required of a pilot's 
pee rless m e m o r y 
by the fickle Missis- 

I think a pilot's 
memory is about 
the most wonderful 
thing in the world. 
To know the Old 
and New Testa- 
ments by h e a r t, 
and be able to re- 
cite them glibly, 
forward or back- 
ward, or begin at 
random anywhere 
in the book and 
recite both ways 
and never trip or 
make a mistake, "a city street." 


is no extravagant mass of knowledge, and no marvellous 
facility, compared to a pilot's massed knowledge of the Mis- 
sissippi and his marvellous facility in the handling of it. I 
make this comparison deliberately, and believe I am not 
expanding the truth when I do it. Many will think my 
figure too strong, but pilots will not. 

And how easily and comfortably the pilot's memory does 
its work ; how placidly effortless is its way ; how unconsciously 
it lays up its vast stores, hour by hour, day by day, and never 
loses or mislays a single valuable package of them all ! Take 
an instance. Let a leadsman cry, " Half twain ! half twain ! 
half twain ! half twain ! half twain ! " until it becomes as 
monotonous as the ticking of a clock ; let conversation be 
going on all the time, and the pilot be doing his share of the 
talking, and no longer consciously listening to the leadsman ; 
and in the midst of this endless string of half twains let a 
single " quarter twain ! " be interjected, without emphasis, 
and then the half twain cry go on again, just as before : two 
or three weeks later that pilot can describe with precision 
the boat's position in the river when that quarter twain was 
uttered, and give you such a lot of head-marks, stern-marks, 
and side-marks to guide you, that you ought to be able to 
take the boat there and put her in that same spot again your- 
self ! The cry of " quarter twain " did not really take his mind 
from his talk, but his trained faculties instantly photographed 
the bearings, noted the change of depth, and laid up the im- 
portant details for future reference without requiring any 
assistance from him in the matter. If you were walking and 
talking with a friend, and another friend at your side kept 
up a monotonous repetition of the vowel sound A, for a 
couple of blocks, and then in the midst interjected an R, 
thus, A, A, A, A, A, R, A, A, A, etc., and gave the R no 
emphasis, you would not be able to state, two or three 
weeks afterward, that the R had been put in, nor be able 
to tell what objects you were passing at the moment it 
was done. But you could if your memory had been pa- 



tiently and laboriously trained to do that sort of thing 

Give a man a tolerably fair memory to start with, and 
piloting will develop it 
into a very colossus of 
capability. But only in 
the matters it is daily 
drilled in. A time would 
come when the man's 
faculties could not help 
noticing landmarks and 
soundings, and his mem- 
ory could not help hold- 
ing on to them 
with the grip of 
a vice ; but if 
you asked that 
same man at 
noon what he 
had had for 
breakfast, it 
would be ten 
chances to one 
that he could 
not tell you. 
things can be 
done with the 
human memory 
if you will de- 
vote it faithfully 
to one particu- 
lar line of busi- "let a leadsman cry, 'half twain.'" 

At the time that wages soared so high on the Missouri 
River, my chief, Mr. Bixby, went up there and learned more 



than a thousand miles of that stream with an ease and 
rapidity that were astonishing. When he had seen each divi- 
sion once in the daytime and once at night, his education was 
so nearly complete that he took out a " daylight " license ; a 
few trips later he took out a full license, and went to piloting 
day and night, — and he ranked A 1, too. 

Mr. Bixby placed me as steersman for a while under a pilot 
whose feats of memory were a constant marvel to me. How- 
ever, his memory was 
born in him, I think, 
not built. For instance, 
somebody would men- 
tion a name. Instantly 
Mr. Brown would break 
in : — 

"Oh, I knew him. 
Sallow r -faced, red-headed 
fellow, with a little scar 
on the side of his throat, 
like a splinter under the 
flesh. He was only in 
the Southern trade six 
months. That was thir- 
teen years ago. I made 
a trip with him. There 
was five feet in the upper 
river then ; the ' Henry 
Blake ' grounded at the 
foot of Tower Island drawing four and a half ; the ' George 
Elliott ' unshipped her rudder on the wreck of the ' Sun- 
flower' " — 

" Why, the ' Sunflower ' did n't sink until " — 

" I know when she sunk ; it was three years before that, 

on the 2d of December ; Asa Hardy w r as captain of her, and 

his brother John was first clerk ; and it w r as his first trip in 

her, too ; Tom Jones told me these things a week afterward 

OH, I knew him.'" 



in New Orleans ; he was first mate of the ' Sunflower/ 
Captain Hardy stuck a nail in his foot the 6th of July of 
the next year, and died of the lockjaw on the 15th. His 
brother John died two years after, — 3d of March, — erysip- 
elas. I never saw either of the Hardys, — they were Alle- 
ghany River men, — but people who knew them told me all 
these things. And they said Captain Hardy wore yarn 
socks winter and summer just the same, and his first wife's 
name was Jane Shook, — she was from New England, — and 
his second one died 
in a lunatic asylum. 
It was in the blood. 
She was from Lexing- 
ton, Kentucky. 
Name was Horton be- 
fore she was mar- 

And so on, by the 
hour, the man's 
tongue would go. He 
could not forget any 
thing. It was simply 
impossible. The most 
trivial details re- 
mained as distinct 
and luminous in his 
head, after they had 

lain there for years, as the most memorable events, 
was not simply a pilot's memory ; its grasp was universal. 
If he were talking about a trifling letter he had received 
seven years before, he was pretty sure to deliver you the 
entire screed from memory. And then without observing 
that he was departing from the true line of his talk, he 
was more than likely to hurl in a long-drawn paren- 
thetical biography of the writer 'of that letter ; and you 
were lucky indeed if he did not take up that writer's 




relatives, one by one, and give you their biographies, 

Such a memory as that is a great misfortune. To it, all 
occurrences are of the same size. Its possessor cannot dis- 
tinguish an interesting circumstance from an uninteresting 
one. As a talker, he is bound to clog his narrative with 
tiresome details and make himself an insufferable bore. 
Moreover, he cannot stick to his subject. He picks up 
every little grain of memory he discerns in his way, and 
so is led aside. Mr. Brown would start out with the honest 
intention of telling you a vastly funny anecdote about a dog. 
He would be " so full of laugh " that he could hardly begin ; 
then his memory would start with the dog's breed and per- 
sonal appearance ; drift into a history of his owner ; of his 
owner's family, with descriptions of weddings and burials 
that had occurred in it, together with recitals of congratula- 
tory verses and obituary poetry provoked by the same ; then 
this memory would recollect that one of these events occurred 
during the celebrated " hard winter " of such and such a year, 
and a minute description of that winter would follow, along 
with the names of people who were frozen to death, and 
statistics showing the high figures which pork and hay went 
up to. Pork and hay would suggest corn and fodder ; corn and 
fodder would suggest cows and horses ; cows and horses would 
suggest the circus and certain celebrated bare-back riders ; 
the transition from the circus to the menagerie was easy and 
natural ; from the elephant to equatorial Africa was but a 
step ; then of course the heathen savages would suggest reli- 
gion ; and at the end of three or four hours' tedious jaw, the 
watch would change, and Brown would go out of the pilot- 
house muttering extracts from sermons he had heard years 
before about the efficacy of prayer as a means of grace. And 
the original first mention would be all you had learned about 
that dog, after all this waiting and hungering. 

A pilot must have a memory ; but there are two higher quali- 
ties which he must also have. He must have good and quick 


judgment and decision, and a cool, calm courage that no peril 
can shake. Give a man the merest trifle of pluck to start 
with, and by the time he has become a pilot he cannot be 
unmanned by any danger a steamboat can get into ; but one 
cannot quite say the same for judgment. Judgment is a 
matter of brains, and a man must start with a good stock of 
that article or he will never succeed as a pilot. 

The growth of courage in the pilot-house is steady all the 
time, but it does not reach a high and satisfactory condition 
until some time after the young pilot has been " standing his 
own watch," alone and under the staggering weight of all 
the responsibilities connected with the position. When an 
apprentice has become pretty thoroughly acquainted with 
the river, he goes clattering along so fearlessly with his 
steamboat, night or day, that he presently begins to imagine 
that it is his courage that animates him ; but the first time 
the pilot steps out and leaves him to his own devices he finds 
out it was the other man's. He discovers that the article 
has been left out of his own cargo altogether. The whole 
river is bristling with exigencies in a moment ; he is not 
prepared for them ; he does not know how to meet them ; 
all his knowledge forsakes him ; and within fifteen minutes 
he is as white as a sheet and scared almost to death. There- 
fore pilots wisely train these cubs by various strategic tricks 
to look danger in the face a little more calmly. A favorite 
way of theirs is to play a friendly swindle upon the can- 

Mr. Bixby served me in this fashion once, and for years 
afterward I used to blush even in my sleep when I thought 
of it. I had become a good steersman ; so good, indeed, 
that I had all the work to do on- our watch, night and day ; 
Mr. Bixby seldom made a suggestion to me ; all he ever did 
was to take the wheel on particularly bad nights or in par- 
ticularly bad crossings, land the boat when she needed to be 
landed, play gentleman of leisure nine tenths of the watch, 
and collect the wages. The lower river was about bank-full, 



and if anybody had questioned my ability to run any cross- 
ing between Cairo and New Orleans without help or instruc- 
tion, I should have felt irreparably hurt. The idea of being- 
afraid of any crossing in the lot, in the day-time, was a thing 
too preposterous for contemplation. Well, one matchless 
summer's clay I was bowling down the bend above island 66, 
brimful of self-conceit and carrying my nose as high as a 
giraffe's, when Mr. Bixby said, — 

" I am going below a while. I suppose you know the next 

crossing ? " 

This was almost an affront. 
It was about the plainest and 
simplest crossing in the whole 
river. One couldn't come to 
any harm, whether he ran it 
right or not ; and as for depth, 
there never had been any bot- 
tom there. I knew all this, 
perfectly well. 

" Know how to run it ? 
Why, I can run it with my 
eyes shut." 

" How much water is there 
in it?" 

" Well, that is an odd ques- 
tion. I could n't get bottom 
there with a church steeple." 


" You think so, do you ? " 

The very tone of the question shook my confidence. That 
was what Mr. Bixby was expecting. He left, without saying 
anything more. I began to imagine all sorts of things. Mr. 
Bixby, unknown to me, of course, sent somebody down to 
the forecastle with some mysterious instructions to the 
leadsmen, another messenger was sent to whisper among 
the officers, and then Mr. Bixby went into hiding behind a 
smoke-stack where he could observe results. Presentlv the 



captain stepped out on the hurricane deck ; next the chief 
mate appeared ; then a clerk. Every moment or two a 
straggler was added to my audience ; and before I got to the 
head of the island I had fifteen or twenty people assembled 
down there under my nose. I began to wonder what the 
trouble was. As I started across, the captain glanced aloft 
at me and said, with a sham uneasiness in his voice, — 

" Where is Mr. Bixby ? " 

" Gone below, sir." 

But that did the business for me. My imagination began 
to construct dangers out of nothing, and they multiplied 
faster than I could keep the run of them. All at once I 
imagined I saw shoal water ahead ! The wave of coward 
agony that surged through me then came near dislocating 
every joint in me. All my confidence in that crossing van- 
ished. I seized the bell-rope ; dropped it, ashamed ; seized it 
again ; dropped it once more ; clutched it tremblingly once 
again, and pulled it so feebly that I could hardly hear the 
stroke myself. Captain and mate sang out instantly, and 
both together, — 

" Starboard lead there ! and quick about it ! " 

This was another shock. I began to climb the wheel like 
a squirrel ; but I would hardly get the boat started to port 
before I would see new dangers on that side, and away I 
would spin to the other ; only to find perils accumulating to 
starboard, and be crazy to get to port again. Then came the 
leadsman's sepulchral cry : — 

" D-e-e-p four ! " 

Deep four in a bottomless crossing ! The terror of it took 
my breath away. 

" M-a-r-k three ! . . . M-a-r-k three . . . Quarter less 
three ! . . . Half twain ! " 

This was frightful ! I seized the bell-ropes and stopped 
the engines. 

" Quarter twain ! Quarter twain ! Mark twain ! " 

I was helpless. I did not know what in the world to do. 



I was quaking from head to foot, and I could have hung my 
hat on my eyes, they stuck out so far. 

" Quarter less twain ! Nine and a half ! " 

We were drawing nine ! My hands were in a nerveless 
flutter. I could not ring a bell intelligibly with them. I flew 


\ UiL 

to the speaking-tube and shout- 
ed to the engineer, — 
" Oh, Ben, if you love me, bach 
her ! Quick, Ben ! Oh, back the 
immortal soul out of her ! " 
I heard the door close gently. I looked around, and there 
stood Mr. Bixby, smiling a bland, sweet smile. Then the 
audience on the hurricane deck sent up a thundergust of hu- 
miliating laughter. I saw it all, now, and I felt meaner than 
the meanest man in human history. I laid in the lead, set the 
boat in her marks, came ahead on the engines, and said : — 



" It was a fine trick to play on an orphan, was n't it ? I 
suppose I '11 never hear the last of how I was ass enough to 
heave the lead at the head of 66." 

" Well, no, you won't, maybe. In fact I hope you won't ; 
for I want you to learn something by that experience. Did n't 
you know there was no bottom in that crossing ? " 

" Yes, sir, I did." 

" Very well, then. You should n't have allowed me or 
anybody else to shake your confidence in that knowledge. 
Try to remember that. And another thing : when you get 
into a dangerous place, don't turn coward. That is n't going 
to help matters any." 

It was a good enough lesson, but pretty hardly learned. 
Yet about the hardest part of it was that for months I so 
often had to hear a phrase which I had conceived a par- 
ticular distaste for. It was, " Oh, Ben, if you love me, back 
her ! " 



IN my preceding chapters I have tried, by going into the 
minutiae of the science of piloting, to carry the reader 
step by step to a comprehension of what the science consists 
of ; and at the same time I have tried to show him that it 
is a very curious and wonderful science, too, and very worthy 
of his attention. If I have seemed to love my subject, it is 
no surprising thing, for I loved the profession far better 
than any I have followed since, and I took a measureless 
pride in it. The reason is plain : a pilot, in those days, 
was the only unfettered and entirely independent human 
being that lived in the earth. Kings are but the hampered 
servants of parliament and people ; parliaments sit in chains 
forged by their constituency ; the editor of a newspaper 
cannot be independent, but must work with one hand tied 
behind him by party and patrons, and be content to utter 
only half or two thirds of his mind ; no clergyman is a free 
man and may speak the whole truth, regardless of his 
parish's opinions ; writers of all kinds are manacled servants 
of the public. We write frankly and fearlessly, but then we 
" modify " before we print. In truth, every man and woman 
and child has a master, and worries and frets in servitude ; 
but in the day I write of, the Mississippi pilot had none. 
The captain could stand upon the hurricane deck, in the 
pomp of a very brief authority, and give him five or six 
orders while the vessel backed into the stream, and then that 
skipper's reign was over. The moment that the boat was 



under way in the river, she was under the sole and unques- 
tioned control of the pilot. He could do with her exactly as 
he pleased, run her when and whither he chose, and tie her 
up to the bank whenever his judgment said that that course 
was best. His movements were entirely free ; he consulted 
no one, he received commands from 
nobody, he promptly resented even 
the merest suggestions. Indeed, the 
law of the United States forbade 


him to listen to com- 
mands or suggestions, 
rightly considering that the 
pilot necessarily knew better 
how to handle the boat than 
anybody could tell him. So 
here was the novelty of a king 
without a keeper, an absolute monarch who was absolute in 
sober truth and not by a fiction of words. I have seen a boy 
of eighteen taking a great steamer serenely into what seemed 
almost certain destruction, and the aged captain standing 
mutely by, filled with apprehension but powerless to inter- 



fere. His interference, in that particular instance, might 
have been an excellent thing, but to permit it would have 
been to establish a most pernicious precedent. It will easily 
be guessed, considering the pilot's boundless authority, that 

he was a great 
personage in the 
old steamboat- 
ing days. He 
was treated with 
ma r k e d 
by the 
and with 
ma rke'd 
by all the 
offi ce r s 
and serv- 
ants ; and this deferential 
spirit was quickly communi- 
cated to the passengers, too. 
I think pilots were about the 
only people I ever knew who 
failed to show, in some degree, embarrassment in the pres- 
ence of travelling foreign princes. But then, people in one's 
own grade of life are not usually embarrassing objects. 

By long habit, pilots came to put all their wishes in the 
form of commands. It " gravels " me, to this day, to put 
my will in the weak shape of a request, instead of launch- 
ing it in the crisp language of an order. 

In those old days, to load a steamboat at St. Louis, take 
her to New Orleans and back, and discharge cargo, consumed 
about twenty-five days, on an average. Seven or eight of 
these days the boat spent at the wharves of St. Louis and 
New Orleans, and every soul on board was hard at work, 



except the two pilots ; they did nothing but play gentleman 
up town, and receive the same wages for it as if they had 
been on duty. The moment the boat touched the wharf at 
either city, they were ashore ; and they were not likely to be 
seen again till the last bell was ringing and everything in 
readiness for another voyage. 

When a captain got hold of a pilot of particularly high 
reputation, he took pains to keep him. When wages were 
four hundred dollars a month on the Upper Mississippi, I 
have known a captain to keep such a pilot in idleness, under 
full pay, three months at a time, while the river was frozen 
up. And one must remember that in those cheap times 
four hundred dollars was a salary of almost inconceivable 
splendor. Few men on shore got such pay as that, and 
when they did they were mightily looked up to. When 
pilots from either end of the river wandered into our small 
Missouri village, they were sought by the best and the fair- 
est, and treated with exalted respect. Lying in port under 
wages was a thing which many pilots greatly enjoyed and 
appreciated ; especially if they belonged in the Missouri 
River in the heyday of that trade (Kansas times), and got 
nine hundred dollars a trip, which was equivalent to about 
eighteen hundred dollars a month. Here is a conversation 
of that day. A chap out of the Illinois River, with a little 
stern-wheel tub, accosts a couple of ornate and gilded 
Missouri River pilots : — 

" Gentlemen, I've got a pretty good trip for the up-country, 
and shall want you about a month. How much will it be ? " 

" Eighteen hundred dollars apiece." 

" Heavens and earth ! You take my boat, let me have 
your wages, and I '11 divide ! " 

I will remark, in passing, that Mississippi steamboatmen 
were important in landsmen's eyes (and in their own, too, 
in a degree) according to the dignity of the boat they were 
on. For instance, it was a proud thing to be of the crew 
of such stately craft as the '■' Aleck Scott " or the " Grand 



Turk." Negro firemen, deck hands, and barbers belonging 
to those boats were distinguished personages in their grade 
of life, and they were well aware of that fact, too. A stal- 
wart darkey once gave offence at a negro ball in New Orleans 

by putting 
T on a good 

many airs. 
Finally one 
of the mana- 
gers bustled 
up to him 
and said, — 
"Who is 



way ? 

is you 
dat 's what 
/ wants to 
know ! " 

The of- 
fender was 
not discon- 
certed in the 
least, but 
swelled him- 
self up and 
threw that 
into his 
voice which 
showed that 
he knew he 

was not putting on all those airs on a stinted capital. 

" Who is I ? Who is I ? I let you know mighty quick who 

1 is ! I want you niggers to understan' dat I fires de middle 

do' i on de ' Aleck Scott ! ' " 

'you take my boat 

1 Door. 



" NO EOOLIN ! " 

That was sufficient. 
The barber of the " Grand 
Turk" was a spruce young ne- 
gro, who aired his importance 
with balmy complacency, and 
was greatly courted by the 
circle in which he moved. The 
young colored population of 
New Orleans were much given 
to flirting, at twilight, on the 
banquettes of the back streets. 
Somebody saw and heard some- 
thing like the following, one 
evening, in one of those locali- 
ties. A middle-aged negro 
woman projected her head 
through a broken pane and 
shouted (very willing that the 
neighbors should hear and 
envy), "You Mary Ann, come 
in de house dis min- 
ute ! Stannin' out dah 
foolin' 'long wid dat* 
low trash, an' heah's 
de barber off 'n de 
' Gran' Turk ' wants I 
to conwerse wid you ! " 
My reference, a mo- 
ment ago, to the fact 
that a pilot's peculiar 
official position placed 
him out of the reach 
of criticism or com- 
mand, brings Stephen 
W — : — - naturally to 
mv mind. He was a 


gifted pilot, a good fellow, a tireless talker, and had both 
wit and humor in him. He had a most irreverent inde- 
pendence, too, and was deliciously easy-going and comfort- 
able in the presence of age, official dignity, and even the 
most august wealth. He always had work, he never saved 
a penny, he was a most persuasive borrower, he was in 
debt to every pilot on the river, and to the majority of the 
captains. He could throw a sort of splendor around a bit 
of harum-scarum, devil-may-care piloting, that made it 
almost fascinating — but not to everybody. He made a 

trip with good old Captain Y once, and was " relieved " 

from duty when the boat got to New Orleans. Somebody 
expressed surprise at the discharge. Captain Y shud- 
dered at the mere mention of Stephen. Then his poor, thin 
old voice piped out something like this : — 

" Why, bless me ! I would n't have such a wild creature on 
my boat for the world — not for the whole world ! He 
swears, he sings, he whistles, he yells — I never saw such an 
Injun to yell. All times of the night — it never made any 
difference to him. He would just yell that way, not for 
anything in particular, but merely on account of a kind of 
devilish comfort he got out of it. I never could get into a 
sound sleep but he would fetch me out of bed, all in a cold 
sweat, with one of those dreadful war-whoops. A queer being, 
— very queer being ; no respect for anything or anybody. 
Sometimes he called me ' Johnny.' And he kept a fiddle, 
and a cat. He played execrably. This seemed to distress 
the cat, and so the cat would howl. Nobody could sleep 
where that man — and his family — was. And reckless ? 
There never was anything like it. Now you may believe it 
or not, but as sure as I am sitting here, he brought my boat 
a-tilting down through those awful snags at Chicot under a 
rattling head of steam, and the wind a-blowing like the very 
nation, at that! My officers will tell you so. They saw it. 
And, sir, while he was a-tearing right down through those 
snags, and I a-shaking in my shoes and praying, I wish I may 



never speak again if he did n't pucker up his mouth and go 
to whistling ! Yes, sir ; whistling ' Buffalo gals, can't you 
come out to-night, can't you come out to-night, can't you 
come out to-night ; ' and doing it as calmly as if we were 
attending a funeral and were n't related to the corpse. And 
when I remonstrated with him about it, he smiled down on 


me as if I was his child, and told me to run in the house and 
try to be good, and not be meddling with my superiors ! " * 

Once a pretty mean captain caught Stephen in New Orleans 
out of work and as usual out of money. He laid steady 

1 Considering a captain's ostentatious but hollow chieftainship, and a pilot's 
real authority, there was something impudently apt and happy about that 
way of phrasing it. 


siege to Stephen, who was in a very " close place," and 
finally persuaded him to hire with him at one hundred and 
twenty-five dollars per month, just half wages, the captain 
agreeing not to divulge the secret and so bring down the 
contempt of all the guild upon the poor fellow. But the 
boat was _ not more than a day out of New Orleans before 
Stephen discovered that the captain was boasting of his 
exploit, and that all the officers had been told. Stephen 
winced, but said nothing. About the middle of the after- 
noon the captain stepped out on the hurricane deck, cast his 
eye around, and looked a good deal surprised. He glanced 
inquiringly aloft at Stephen, but Stephen was whistling 
placidly, and attending to business. The captain stood 
around a while in evident discomfort, and once or twice 
seemed about to make a suggestion ; but the etiquette of the 
river taught him to avoid that sort of rashness, and so he 
managed to hold his peace. He chafed and puzzled a few 
minutes longer, then retired to his apartments. But soon he 
was out again, and apparently more perplexed than ever. 
Presently he ventured to remark, with deference, — 

" Pretty good stage of the river now, ain't it, sir ? " 

" Well, I should say so ! Bank-full is a pretty liberal 

" Seems to be a good deal of current here." 

"Good deal don't describe it! It's worse than a mill- 

" Is n't it easier in toward shore than it is out here in the 
middle ? " 

" Yes, I reckon it is ; but a body can't be too careful witli 
a steamboat. It 's pretty safe out here ; can't strike any 
bottom here, you can depend on that." 

The captain departed, looking rueful enough. At this 
rate, he would probably die of old age before his boat got to 
St. Louis. Next day he appeared on deck and again found 
Stephen faithfully standing up the middle of the river, 
fighting the whole vast force of the Mississippi, and whistling 


the same placid tune. This thing was becoming serious. 
In by the shore was a slower boat clipping along in the easy 
water and gaining steadily ; she began to make for an island 
chute ; Stephen stuck to the middle of the river. Speech 
was wrung from the captain. He said, — 

" Mr. W , don't that chute cut off a good deal of 

distance ?" 

" I think it does, but I don't know." 

" Don't know ! Well, is n't there water enough in it now 
to go through ?" 

" I expect there is, but I am not certain." 

" Upon my word this is odd ! Why, those pilots on that 
boat yonder are going to try it. Do you mean to say that 
you don't know as much as they do ? " 

" They ! Why, they are two-hundred-and-lifty-dollar pilots! 
But don't you be uneasy ; I know as much as any man can 
afford to know for a hundred and twenty-five ! " 

The captain surrendered. 

Five minutes later Stephen was bowling through the chute 
and showing the rival boat a two-hundred-and-fifty-dollar 
pair of heels. 



ONE day, on board the " Aleck Scott," niy chief, Mr. 
Bixby, was crawling carefully through a close place at 
Cat Island, both leads going, and everybody holding his 
breath. The captain, a nervous, apprehensive man, kept 
still as long as he could, but finally broke down and shouted 
from the hurricane deck, — 

" For gracious' sake, give her steam, Mr. Bixby ! give her 
steam ! She '11 never raise the reef on this headway ! " 

For all the effect that was produced upon Mr. Bixby, one 
would have supposed that no remark had been made. But 
five minutes later, when the danger was past and the leads 
laid in, he burst instantly into a consuming fury, and gave 
the captain the most admirable cursing I ever listened to. 
No bloodshed ensued ; but that was because the captain's 
cause was weak ; for ordinarily he was not a man to take 
correction quietly. 

Having now set forth in detail the nature of the science of 
piloting, and likewise described the rank which the pilot 
held among the fraternity of steamboatmen, this seems a 
fitting place to say a few words about an organization which 
the pilots once formed for the protection of their guild. It 
was curious and noteworthy in this, that it was perhaps the 
compactest, the completest, and the strongest commercial 
organization ever formed among men. 

For a long time wages had been two hundred and fifty 
dollars a month ; but curiously enough, as steamboats multi- 
plied and business increased, the wages began to fall little by 



little. It was easy to discover the reason of this. Too many 
pilots were being " made." It was nice to have a " cub," a 
steersman, to do all the hard work for a couple of years, 

gratis, while his master sat 
on a high bench and smoked ; 
all pilots and captains had 
sons or nephews who wanted 
to be pilots. By and by it 
came to pass that nearly 
every pilot on the river had a steersman. When a steersman 
had made an amount of progress that was satisfactory to any 
two pilots in the trade, they could get a pilot's license for him 
by signing an application directed to the United States In- 



spector. Nothing further was needed ; usually no questions 
were asked, no proofs of capacity required. 

Very well, this growing swarm of new pilots presently 
began to undermine the wages, in order to get berths. Too 
late — apparently — the knights of the tiller perceived their 
mistake. Plainly, something had to be done, and quickly ; 
but what was to be the needful thing ? A close organization. 
Nothing else would answer. To compass this seemed an 
impossibility ; so it was talked, and talked, and then dropped. 
It was too likely to ruin whoever ventured to move in the 
matter. But at last about a dozen of the boldest — and 
some of them the best — pilots on the river launched them- 
selves into the enterprise and took all the chances. They 
got a special charter from the legislature, with large powers, 
under the name of the Pilots' Benevolent Association ; 
elected their officers, completed their organization, contrib- 
uted capital, put " association " wages up to two hundred 
and fifty dollars at once — and then retired to their homes, 
for they were promptly discharged from employment. But 
there were two or three unnoticed trifles in their by-laws 
which had the seeds of propagation in them. For instance, 
all idle members of the association, in good standing, were 
entitled to a pension of twenty-five dollars per month. This 
began to bring in one straggler after another from the ranks 
of the new-fledged pilots, in the dull (summer) season. 
Better have twenty-five dollars than starve ; the initiation fee 
was only twelve dollars, and no dues required from the 

Also, the widows of deceased members jn good standing 
could draw twenty-five dollars per month, and a certain sum 
for each of their children. Also, the said deceased would be 
buried at the association's expense. These things resurrected 
all the superannuated and forgotten pilots in the Mississippi 
Valley. They came from farms, they came from interior vil- 
lages, they came from everywhere. They came on crutches, 
on drays, in ambulances, — any way, so they got there. They 



paid in their twelve dollars, and straightway began to draw out 
twenty-five dollars a month and calculate their burial bills. 

By and by, all the useless, helpless pilots, and a dozen 
first-class ones, were in the association, and nine tenths of 
the best pilots out of it and laughing at it. It was the 
laughing-stock of the whole river. Everybody joked about 

the by-law requiring mem- 
bers to pay ten per cent of 
their wages, every month, 
into the treasury for the 
support of the association, 

whereas all the members 
were outcast and tabooed, 
and no one would employ 
them. Everybody was deri- 
sively grateful to the asso- 
ciation for taking all the 
worthless pilots out of the 

way and leaving the whole field to the excellent and the 
deserving ; and everybody was not only jocularly grateful for 
that, but for a result which naturally followed, namely, the 
gradual advance of wages as the busy season approached. 
Wages had gone up from the low figure of one hundred dol- 
lars a month to one hundred and twenty-five, and in some 


cases to one hundred and fifty ; and it was great fun to en- 
large upon the fact that this charming thing had been ac- 
complished by a body of men not one of whom received 
a particle of benefit from it. Some of the jokers used to 
call at the association rooms and have a good time chaff- 
ing the members and offering them the charity of taking 
them as steersmen for a trip, so that they could see what the 
forgotten river looked like. However, the association was 
content ; or at least it gave no sign to the contrary. Now and 
then it captured a pilot who was " out of luck," and added 
him to its list ; and these later additions were very valuable, 
for they were good pilots ; the incompetent ones had all been 
absorbed before. As business freshened, wages climbed 
gradually up to two hundred and fifty dollars — the asso- 
ciation figure — and became firmly fixed there ; and still 
without benefiting a member of that body, for no member 
was hired. The hilarity at the association's expense burst 
all bounds, now. There was no end to the fun which that 
poor martyr had to put up with. 

However, it is a long lane that has no turning. Winter 
approached, business doubled and trebled, and an avalanche 
of Missouri, Illinois, and Upper Mississippi River boats came 
pouring down to take a chance in the New Orleans trade. 
All of a sudden, pilots were in great demand, and were cor- 
respondingly scarce. The time for revenge was come. It 
was a bitter pill to have to accept association pilots at last, 
yet captains and owners agreed that there was no other way. 
But none of these outcasts offered! So there was a still 
bitterer pill to be swallowed : they must be sought out and 

asked for their services. Captain was the first man 

who found it necessary to take the dose, and he had been 
the loudest derider of the organization. He hunted up one 
of the best of the association pilots and said, — 

" Well, you boys have rather got the best of us for a little 
while, so I '11 give in with as good a grace as I can. I 've come 
to hire you ; get your trunk aboard right away. I want to 
leave at twelve o'clock." 


" I don't know about that. Who is your other pilot ? " 

" I've got I. S . Why?" 

" I can't go with him. He don't belong to the asso- 

" What ! " 

" It 's so." 

" Do you mean to tell me that you won't turn a wheel 
with one of the very best and oldest pilots on the river 
because he don't belong to your association ? " 

" Yes, I do." 

" Well, if this is n't putting on airs ! I supposed I was 
doing you a benevolence ; but I begin to think that I am 
the party that wants a favor done. Are you acting under 
a law of the concern ? " 

" Yes." 

" Show it to me." 

So they stepped into the association rooms, and the sec- 
retary soon satisfied the captain, who said, — 

" Well, what am I to do ? I have hired Mr. S for the 

entire season." 

"I will provide for you," said the secretary. "I will 
detail a pilot to go with you, and he shall be on board at 
twelve o'clock." 

" But if I discharge S , he will come on me for the 

whole season's wages." 

" Of course that is a matter between you and Mr. S , 

captain. We cannot meddle in your private affairs." 

The captain stormed, but to no purpose. In the end he 

had to discharge S , pay him about a thousand dollars, 

and take an association pilot in his place. The laugh was 
beginning to turn the other way, now. Every day, thence- 
forward, a new victim fell ; every day some outraged captain 
discharged a non-association, pet, with tears and profanity, 
and installed a hated association man in his berth. In a 
very little while, idle non-associationists began to be pretty 
plenty, brisk as business was, and much as their services 



were desired. The laugh was shifting to the other side of 
their mouths most palpably. These victims, together with 
the captains and owners, presently ceased to laugh alto- 
gether, and began to rage about the revenge they would 
take when the passing business " spurt " was over. 

Soon all the laughers that were left were the owners and 
crews of boats that had two non-association pilots. But their 
triumph was not very long-lived. For this reason : It was a 


rigid rule of the association that its members should never, 
under any circumstances whatever, give information about 
the channel to any " outsider." By this time about half the 
boats had none but association pilots, and the other half had 
none but outsiders. At the first glance one would suppose 

S • 



that when it came to forbidding information about the river 
these two parties could play equally at that game ; but this 
was not so. At every good-sized town from one end of the 
river to the other, there was a " wharf-boat " to land at, 
instead of a wharf or a pier. Freight was stored in it for 
transportation ; waiting passengers slept in its cabins. Upon 


each of these wharf-boats 
the association's officers 
placed a strong box, fast- 
ened with a peculiar lock 
which was used in no 
other service but one — the United States mail service. It 
was the letter-bag lock, a sacred governmental thing. By 
dint of much beseeching the government had been persuaded 


to allow the association to use this lock. Every association 
man carried a key which would open these boxes. That key, 
or rather a peculiar way of holding it in the hand when its 
owner was asked for river information by a stranger, — for 
the success of the St. Louis and New Orleans association 
had now bred tolerably thriving branches in a dozen neigh- 
boring steamboat trades, — was the association man's sign 
and diploma of membership ; and if the stranger did not 
respond by producing a similar key and holding it in a 
certain manner duly prescribed, his question was politely 
ignored. From the association's secretary each member 
received a package of more or less gorgeous blanks, printed 
like a bill-head, on handsome paper, properly ruled in col- 
umns; a bill-head worded something like this: — 


John Smith, Master. 

Pilots, John Jones and Thomas Drown. 


Soundings. Marks. 


These blanks were filled up, day by day, as the voyage 
progressed, and deposited in the several wharf-boat boxes. 
For instance, as soon as the first crossing, out from St. 
Louis, was completed, the items would be entered upon the 
blank, under the appropriate headings, thus : — 

" St. Louis. Nine and a half (feet). Stern on court- 
house, head on dead cottonwood above wood-yard, until 
you raise the first reef, then pull up square." Then under 
head of Remarks : " Go just outside the wrecks ; this is im- 
portant. New snag just where you straighten down ; go 
above it." 

The pilot who deposited that blank in the Cairo box (af- 
ter adding to it the details of every crossing all the way 
down from St. Louis) took out and read half a dozen fresh 
reports (from upward-bound steamers) concerning the river 


between Cairo and Memphis, posted himself thoroughly, re- 
turned them to the box, and went back aboard his boat again 
so armed against accident that he could not possibly get his 
boat into trouble without bringing the most ingenious care- 
lessness to his aid. 

Imagine the benefits of so admirable a system in a piece of 
river twelve or thirteen hundred miles long, whose channel 
was shifting every day ! The pilot who had formerly been 
obliged to put up with seeing a shoal place once or possibly 
twice a month, had a hundred sharp eyes to watch it for him, 
now, and bushels of intelligent brains to tell him how to run 
it. His information about it was seldom twenty-four hours 
old. If the reports in the last box chanced to leave any mis- 
givings on his mind concerning a treacherous crossing, he 
had his remedy ; he blew his steam-whistle in a peculiar way 
as soon as he saw a boat approaching ; the signal was an- 
swered in a peculiar way if that boat's pilots were associa- 
tion men ; and then the two steamers ranged alongside and 
all uncertainties were swept away by fresh information 
furnished to the inquirer by word of mouth and in minute 

The first thing a pilot did when he reached New Orleans or 
St. Louis was to take his final and elaborate report to the 
association parlors and hang it up there, — after which he 
was free to visit his family. In these parlors a crowd was 
always gathered together, discussing changes in the channel, 
and the moment there was a fresh arrival, everybody stopped 
talking till this witness had told the newest news and settled 
the latest uncertainty. Other craftsmen can " sink the shop," 
sometimes, and interest themselves in other matters. Not 
so with a pilot ; he must devote himself wholly to his pro- 
fession and talk of nothing else ; for it would be small gain 
to be perfect one day and imperfect the next. He has no 
time or words to waste if he would keep " posted." 

But the outsiders had a hard time of it. No particular 
place to meet and exchange information, no wharf-boat re- 



ports, none but chance and unsatisfactory ways of getting 
news. The consequence was that a man sometimes had to 
run five hundred miles of river on information that was a 
week or ten days old. At a fair stage of the river that 
might have answered ; but when the dead low water came it 
was destructive. 

came anoth- 
er perfectly logi- 
/i-H^ cal result. The out- 
siders began to ground 
steamboats, sink them, and get 
into all sorts of trouble, whereas 
accidents seemed to keep entirely 
away from the association men. Wherefore even the owners 
and captains of boats furnished exclusively with outsiders, 
and previously considered to be wholly independent of the 



association and free to comfort themselves with brag and 
laughter, began to feel pretty uncomfortable. Still, they 
made a show of keeping up the brag, until one black day 
when every captain of the lot was formally ordered to imme- 
diately discharge his outsiders and take association pilots in 
their stead. And who was it that had the dashing presump- 
tion to do that ? Alas, it came from a power behind the 
throne that was greater than the throne itself. It was the 
underwriters ! 

It was no time to " swap knives." Every outsider had to 
take his trunk ashore at once. Of course it was supposed 
that there was collusion between the association and the un- 
derwriters, but this was not so. The latter had come to com- 
prehend the excellence of the " report " system of the associ- 
ation and the safety it secured, and so they had made their 
decision among themselves and upon plain business princi- 

There was weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth in 
the camp of the outsiders now. But no matter, there was 
but one course for them to pursue, and they pursued it. 
They came forward in couples and groups, and proffered their 
twelve dollars and asked for membership. They were sur- 
prised to learn that several new by-laws had been long ago 
added. For instance, the initiation fee had been raised to 
fifty dollars ; that sum must be tendered, and also ten per 
cent of the wages which the applicant had received each and 
every month since the founding of the association. In many 
cases this amounted to three or four hundred dollars. Still, 
the association would not entertain the application until the 
money was present. Even then a single adverse vote killed 
the application. Every member had to vote yes or no in per- 
son and before witnesses ; so it took weeks to decide a 
candidacy, because many pilots were so long absent on 
voyages. However, the repentant sinners scraped their sav- 
ings together, and one by one, by our tedious voting process, 
they were added to the fold. A time came, at last, when 



only about ten remained outside. They said they would 
starve before they would apply. They remained idle a long 
while, because of course nobody could venture to employ 

By and by the association pub- 
lished the fact that upon a cer- 
tain date the wages 
would be raised to 
five hundred dol- 
lars per month. All 
the branch associa- 
tions had grown 
strong, now, and the Red River 
one had advanced wages to seven 
hundred dollars a month. Re- 
luctantly the ten outsiders yield- 
ed, in view of these 
things, and made 
application. There 
was another' new 
by-law, by this time, 
which required them 
to pay dues not only 
on all the wages they 
had received since the asso 
ciation was born, but also 
on what they would have 
received if they had con- 
tinued at work up to the time 
of their application, instead of 
going off to pout in idleness. It 
turned out to be a difficult mat- 
ter to elect them, but it was accomplished at last. The most 
virulent sinner of this batch had stayed out and allowed "dues " 
to accumulate against him so long that he had to send in six 
hundred and twenty-five dollars with his application. 



The association had a good bank account now, and was 
very strong. There was no longer an outsider. A by-law 
was added forbidding the reception of any more cubs or ap- 
prentices for live years ; after which time a limited number 
would be taken, not by individuals, but by the association, upon 
these terms : the applicant must not be less than eighteen 
years old, and of respectable family and good character ; he 
must pass an examination as to education, pay a thousand 
dollars in advance for the privilege of becoming an appren- 
tice, and must remain under the commands of the associa- 
tion until a great part of the membership (more than half, I 
think) should be willing to sign his application for a pilot's 

All previously-articled apprentices were now taken away 
from their masters and adopted by the association. The 
president and secretary detailed them for service on one boat 
or another, as they chose, and changed them from boat to 
boat according to certain rules. If a pilot could show that 
he was in infirm health and needed assistance, one of the 
cubs would be ordered to go with him. 

The widow and orphan list grew, but so did the associa- 
tion's financial resources. The association attended its own 
funerals in state, and paid for them. When occasion de- 
manded, it sent members down the river upon searches for 
the bodies of brethren lost by steamboat accidents ; a search 
of this kind sometimes cost a thousand dollars. 

The association procured a charter and went into the in- 
surance business, also. It not only insured the lives of its 
members, but took risks on steamboats. 

The organization seemed indestructible. It was the tight- 
est monopoly in the world. By the United States law, no 
man could become a pilot unless two duly licensed pilots 
signed his application ; and now there was nobody outside 
of the association competent to sign. Consequently the 
making of pilots was at an end. Every year some would 
die and others become incapacitated by age and infirmity ; 



there would be no new ones to take their places. In time, 
the association could put wages up to any figure it chose ; 
and as long as it should be wise enough not to carry the 
thing too far and provoke the national government into 
amending the licensing system, steamboat owners would 
have to submit, since there would be no help for it. 


The owners and captains were 
the only obstruction that lay be- 
tween the association and abso- 
lute power ; and at last this one was removed. Incredible 
as it may seem, the owners and captains deliberately did it 
themselves. When the pilots' association announced, months 
beforehand, that on the first day of September, 1861, wages 
would be advanced to five hundred dollars per month, the 


owners and captains instantly put freights up a few cents, and 
explained to the farmers along the river the necessity of it, 
by calling their attention to the burdensome rate of wages 
about to be established. It was a rather slender argument, 
but the farmers did not seem to detect it. It looked reason- 
able to them that to add live cents freight on a bushel of 
corn was justifiable under the circumstances, overlooking the 
fact that this advance on a cargo of forty thousand sacks 
was a good deal more than necessary to cover the new 

So, straightway the captains and owners got up an associ- 
ation of their own, and proposed to put captains' wages up to 
five hundred dollars, too, and move for another advance in 
freights. It was a novel idea, but of course an effect which 
had been produced once could be produced again. The new 
association decreed (for this was before all the outsiders had 
been taken into the pilots' association) that if any captain 
employed a non-association pilot, he should be forced to dis- 
charge him, and also pay a fine of five hundred dollars. 
Several of these heavy fines were paid before the captains' 
organization grew strong enough to exercise full authority 
over its membership ; but that all ceased, presently. The 
captains tried to get the pilots to decree that no member of 
their corporation should serve under a non-association cap- 
tain ; but this proposition was declined. The pilots saw 
that they would be backed up by the captains and the under- 
writers anyhow, and so they wisely refrained from entering 
into entangling alliances. 

As I have remarked, the pilots' association was now the 
compactest monopoly in the world, perhaps, and seemed 
simply indestructible. And yet the days of its glory were 
numbered. First, the new railroad stretching up through 
Mississippi, Tennessee, and Kentucky, to Northern railway 
centres, began to divert the passenger travel from the steam- 
ers ; next the war came and almost entirely annihilated the 
steamboating industry during several years, leaving most of 



the pilots idle, and the cost of living advancing all the time ; 
then the treasurer of the St. Louis association put his hand 
into the till and walked off with every dollar of the ample 
fund ; and finally, the railroads intruding everywhere, there 
was little for steamers to do, when the war was over, but 
carry freights ; so straightway some genius from the Atlan- 
tic coast' introduced the plan of towing a dozen steamer 
cargoes down to New Orleans at the tail of a vulgar little 
tug-boat ; and behold, in the twinkling of an eye, as it were, 
the association and the noble science of piloting were things 
of the dead and pathetic past ! 



IT was always the custom for the boats to leave New Or- 
leans between four and five o'clock in the afternoon. 
From three o'clock onward they would be burning rosin and 
pitch pine (the sign of preparation), and so one had the 
picturesque spectacle of a rank, some two or three miles 
long, of tall, ascending columns of coal-black smoke ; a col- 
onnade which supported a sable roof of the same smoke 
blended together and spreading abroad over the city. Every 
outward-bound boat had its flag flying at the jack-staff, and 
sometimes a duplicate on the verge staff astern. Two or 
three miles of mates were commanding and swearing with 
more than usual emphasis ; countless processions of freight 
barrels and boxes were spinning athwart the levee and flying 
aboard the stage-planks ; belated passengers were dodging 
and skipping among these frantic things, hoping to reach 
the forecastle companion way alive, but having their doubts 
about it ; women with reticules and bandboxes were trying 
to keep up with husbands freighted with carpet-sacks and 
crying babies, and making a failure of it by losing their 
heads in the whirl and roar and general distraction ; drays 
and baggage-vans were clattering hither and thither in a 
wild hurry, every now and then getting blocked and jammed 
together, and then during ten seconds one could not see 
them for the profanity, except vaguely and dimly ; every 
windlass connected with every fore-hatch, from one end of 
that long array of steamboats to the other, was keeping up 


a deafening whiz and whir, lowering freight into the hold, 
and the half-naked crews of perspiring negroes that worked 
them were roaring such songs as " De Las' Sack ! De Las' 
Sack ! " — inspired to unimaginable exaltation by the chaos of 
turmoil and racket that was driving everybody else mad. By 
this time,, the hurricane and boiler decks of the steamers 
would be packed and black with passengers. The " last 
bells " would begin to clang, all down the line, and then the 
powwow seemed to double ; in a moment or two the final 
warning came, — a simultaneous din of Chinese gongs, with 
the cry, " All dat ain't goin', please to git asho' ! " — and 
behold, the powwow quadrupled ! People came swarming 
ashore, overturning excited stragglers that were trying to 
swarm aboard. One more moment later a long array of 
stage-planks was being hauled in, each with its customary 
latest passenger clinging to the end of it with teeth, nails, 
and everything else, and the customary latest procrastina- 
tor making a wild spring shoreward over his head. 

Now a number of the boats slide backward into the stream, 
leaving wide gaps in the serried rank of steamers. Citizens 
crowd the decks of boats that are not to go, in order to see 
the sight. Steamer after steamer straightens herself up, 
gathers all her strength, and presently comes swinging by, 
under a tremendous head of steam, with flag flying, black 
smoke rolling, and her entire crew of firemen and deck-hands 
(usually swarthy negroes) massed together on the forecastle, 
the best " voice " in the lot towering from the midst (being 
mounted on the capstan), waving his hat or a flag, and all 
roaring a mighty chorus, while the parting cannons boom 
and the multitudinous spectators swing their hats and huzza ! 
Steamer after steamer falls into line, and the stately proces- 
sion goes winging its flight up the river. 

In the old times, whenever two fast boats started out on a 
race, with a big crowd of people looking on, it was inspiring 
to hear the crews sing, especially if the time vcre night-fall, 
and the forecastle lit up with the red glare of the torch-baskets. 




Racing was royal fun. The public always had an idea that 
racing was dangerous ; whereas the opposite was the case — 
that is, after the laws were passed which restricted each 
boat to just so many pounds of steam to the square inch. 
No engineer was ever sleepy or careless when his heart was 
in a race. He 
was constantly 
on the alert, try- 
ing gauge-cocks 
and watching 
things. The 
dangerous place 
was on slow, 
plodding boats, 
where the en- 
gineers drowsed 
around and al- 
lowed chips to 
get into the 
"doctor" and 
shut off the 
water supply 
from the boil- 

In the " flush 
times" of steam- 
boating, a race between two notoriously fleet steamers was 
an event of vast importance. The date was set for it several 
weeks in advance, and from that time forward, the whole 
Mississippi Valley was in a state of consuming excitement. 
Politics and the weather were dropped, and people talked 
only of the coming race. As the time approached, the two 
steamers " stripped " and got ready. Every incumbrance 
that added weight, or exposed a resisting surface to wind or 
water, was removed, if the boat could possibly do without it. 
The " spars," and sometimes even their supporting derricks, 



were sent ashore, and no means left to set the boat afloat in 
case she got aground. When the " Eclipse " and the " A. L. 
Shotwell " ran their great race many years ago, it was said 
that pains were taken to scrape the gilding off the fanciful 
device which hung between the " Eclipse's " chimneys, and 
that for that one trip the captain left off his kid gloves and 
had his head shaved. But I always doubted these things. 

If the boat was known to make her best speed when 
drawing five and a half feet forward and five feet aft, she 
was carefully loaded to that exact figure — she wouldn't 
enter a dose of homoeopathic pills on her manifest after that. 
Hardly any passengers were taken, because they not only add 
weight but they never will " trim boat." They always run 
to the side when there is anything to see, whereas a conscien- 
tious and experienced steamboatman would stick to the 
centre of the boat and part his hair in the middle with a 
spirit level. 

No way-freights and no way-passengers were allowed, for 
the racers would stop only at the largest towns, and then it 
would be only " touch and go." Coal flats and wood flats 
were contracted for beforehand, and these were kept ready 
to hitch on to the flying steamers at a moment's warning. 
Double crews were carried, so that all work could be quickly 

The chosen date being come, and all things in readiness, 
the two great steamers back into the stream, and lie there 
jockeying a moment, and apparently watching each other's 
slightest movement, like sentient creatures ; flags drooping, 
the pent steam shrieking through safety-valves, the black 
smoke rolling and tumbling from the chimneys and darkening 
all the air. People, people everywhere ; the shores, the 
house-tops, the steamboats, the ships, are packed with them, 
and you know that the borders of the broad Mississippi are 
going to be fringed with humanity thence northward twelve 
hundred miles, to welcome these racers. 

Presently tall columns of steam burst from the 'scape- 



pipes of both steamers, two guns boom a good-by, two 
red-shirted heroes mounted on capstans wave their small 
flags above the massed crews on the forecastles, two plaintive 

^-^T^-^ES /fV 

solos linger on 
the air a few 
waiting seconds, 
two mighty 
choruses burst 
forth — and 
here they come 1 
Brass bands 
bray Hail Co- 
lumbia, huzza 
after huzza 

thunders from the shores, and the stately creatures go 

whistling by like the wind. 
Those boats will never halt a moment between New Orleans 



and St. Louis, except for a second or two at large towns, or 
to hitch thirty-cord wood-boats alongside. You should be on 
board when they take a couple of those wood-boats in tow 
and turn a swarm of men into each ; by the time you have 
wiped your glasses and put them on, you will be wondering 
what has become of that wood. 

Two nicely matched steamers will stay in sight of each 
other day after day. They might even stay side by side, but 
for the fact that pilots are not all alike, and the smartest 
pilots will win the race. If one of the boats has a " light- 
ning " pilot, whose " partner " is a trifle his inferior, you can 
tell which one is on watch by noting whether that boat has 
gained ground or lost some during each four-hour stretch. 
The shrewdest pilot can delay a boat if he has not a fine 
genius for steering. Steering is a very high art. One must 
not keep a rudder dragging across a boat's stern if he wants 
to get up the river fast. 

There is a great difference in boats, of course. For a long 
time I was on a boat that was so slow we used to forget what 
year it was we left port in. But of course this was at rare 
intervals. Ferry-boats used to lose valuable trips because 
their passengers grew old and died, waiting for us to get by. 
This was at still rarer intervals. I had the documents for 
these occurrences, but through carelessness they have been 
mislaid. This boat, the " John J. Roe," was so slow that 
when she finally sunk in Madrid Bend, it was five years 
before the owners heard of it. That was always a confusing 
fact to me, but it is according to the record, any way. She 
was dismally slow ; still, we often had pretty exciting times 
racing with islands, and rafts, and such things. One trip, 
however, we did rather well. We went to St. Louis in 
sixteen days. But even at this rattling gait I think we 
changed watches three times in Fort Adams reach, which is 
five miles long. A " reach " is a piece of straight river, and 
of course the current drives through such a place in a pretty 
lively way. 



That trip 
we went to 
Grand Gulf, 
from New Or- 
leans, in four 
days (three hun- 
dred and forty 
miles); the 
"Eclipse" and " Shotwell " did it in one. We were nine 
days out, in the chute of 63 (seven hundred miles) ; the 




" Eclipse " and " Shotwell " went there in two days. Some- 
thing over a generation ago, a boat called the " J. M. 
White " went from New Orleans to Cairo in three days, six 
hours, and forty-four minutes. In 1853 the "Eclipse" made 
the same trip in three days, three hours, and twenty 
minutes. 1 In 1870 the " R. E. Lee " did it in three days and 
one hour. 'This last is called the fastest trip on record. I 
will try to show that it was not. For this reason : the 
distance between New Orleans and Cairo, when the " J. M. 
White " ran it, was about eleven hundred and six miles ; 
consequently her average speed was a trifle over fourteen 
miles per hour. In the " Eclipse's" day the distance between 
the two ports had become reduced to one thousand and eighty 
miles ; consequently her average speed was a shade under 
fourteen and three eighths miles per hour. In the "R. E. 
Lee's " time the distance had diminished to about one 
thousand and thirty miles ; consequently her average was 
about fourteen and one eighth miles per hour. Therefore 
the " Eclipse's " was conspicuously the fastest time that has 
ever been made. 


{From Commodore Rollingpin's Almanac] 


1814. Orleans made the run in 6 

1814. Comet „ 

1815. Enterprise ,, 
1817. Washington ,, 
1817. Shelby ,, 
1819. Paragon „ 
1828. Tecumseh „ 
1S34. Tuscarora „ 
1838. Natchez „ 
1840. Ed. Shippen „ 
1842. Belle of the West 

i in 6 




Sultana . . made the run in 



„ 5 



Magnolia ,, ,, 



» 4 




A. L. Shotwell „ „ 



.. 4 


Southern Belle ,, ,, 



, 3 



Princess (No. 4) ,, „ 



» 3 



Eclipse „ „ 



, 3 




Princess (New) ,, „ 






Natchez (New) ,, ,, 



,, 1 



Princess (New) „ „ 



» 1 



Natehez ,, 



o 1 



R. E. Lee „ „ 



1 Time disputed. Some authorities add 1 hour and 10 minutes to this. 



Time Tables. — Continued. 








J. M. White made the run iu 3 




Dexter . 

Reindeer ,, „ 3 





Eclipse „ „ 3 




R. E. Lee 

A. L. Shotwell ,, ,, 3 



. made the run in 


Enterprise made the run in 25 2 40 






Gen. Brown 




















6 15 

1840. Ed. Shippen made the run in 

1842. Belle of the West, 

1843. Duke of Orleans 

1844. Sultana 
1849. Bostona 

1851. Belle Key 

1852. Reindeer 

1852. Eclipse 

1853. A. L. Shotwell 
1853. Eclipse 

I). H. 

3 6 

5 14 

6 14 




20 45 
10 20 

9 30 


1852. A. L. Shotwell made the run in 5 42 

1852. Eclipse „ „ 5 42 

1854. Sultana „ „ 5 12 

1856. Princess 4 51 

1860. Atlantic . . . made the run in 5 11 

1860. Gen. Quitman „ „ 5 6 

1865. Ruth ,, ,, 4 43 

1870. R.E.Lee „ ,, 4 59 


1844. J. M. White made the run in 3 23 
1849. Missouri ,, 4 19 

1869. Dexter „ „ 4 9 


Natchez . 
R. E. Lee 

made the run in 3 21 58 
,, 3 18 14 


1819. Gen. Pike made the run in 1 

1819. Paragon „ „ 1 

1822. Wheeling Packet „ „ 1 

1837. Moselle „ 

1843. Duke of Orleans „ 

H. M. 


14 20 

1843. Congress . . made the run in 

1846. Ben Franklin (No. 6) „ 

1852. Alleghaney „ „ 

1852. Pittsburgh ,, „ 

1853. Telegraph No. 3 ,, ,, 

H. M. 

12 20 

11 45 

10 38 

10 23 

9 52 



Congress . . made the run in 2 
Pike „ ,, 1 

D. H. M. 


Northerner made the run in 1 22 
Southerner ,, „ 1 19 


1850. Telegraph No. 2 made the run in 1 17 1852. Pittsburgh 

1851. Buckeye State ,, „ 1 16 I 

made the run in 1 15 


1853. Altona made the run in 1 35 1876. War Eagle 

1876. Golden Eagle „ „ 1 37 I 

H. M. 

. made the run in 1 37 


In June, 1859, the St. Louis and Keokuk Packet, City of Louisiana, made the run from St. 
Louis to Keokuk (214 miles) in 16 hours and 20 minutes, the best time on record. 

In 1868 the steamer Hawkeye State, of the Northern Line Packet Company, made the run 
from St. Louis to St. Paul (800 miles) in 2 days and 20 hours. Never was beaten. 

In 1853 the steamer Polar Star made the run from St. Louis to St. Joseph, on the Missouri 
River in 64 hours. In July, 1856, the steamer Jas. H. Lucas, Andy Wineland, Master, made 
the same run in 60 hours and 57 minutes. The distance between the ports is 600 miles, and 
when the difficulties of navigating the turbulent Missouri are taken into consideration, the per- 
formance of the Lucas deserves especial mention. 


Time Tables. — Continued. 


The time made by the R. E. Lee from New Orleans to St. Louis in 1870, in her famous race 
with the Natchez, is the best on record, and, inasmuch as the race created a national interest, 
we give below her time table from port to port. 

Left New Orleans, Thursday', June 30th, 1870, at 4 o'clock and 55 minutes, p. m. ; reached 

Carrol lton . . 

Harry Hills . 

Red Church . 

Bonnet Carre . 

College Point 



Baton Rouge 

Bayou Sara 

Red River . 

Stamps . 

Bryaro . 



Cole's Creek 



St. Joseph . 

Grand Gulf 

Hard Times 

Half Mile Below Warrenton 






















51 i- 

















Vicksbure 1 

Milliken's Bend 1 

Bailey's 1 

Lake Providence 1 

Greenville 1 

Napoleon 1 

vThite River 1 

Australia 1 

Helena 1 

Half Mile Below St. Francis . . . 2 

Memphis 2 

Foot of Island 37 2 

Foot of Island 26 2 

Tow-head, Island 14 2 

New Madrid 2 

Dry Bar No. 10 2 

Foot of Islands 2 

Upper Tow-head — Lucas Bend . 3 

Cairo 3 

St. Louis 3 
































The Lee landed at St. Louis at 11.25 a.m.. on July 4th, 1870 — six hours and thirty-six 
minutes ahead of the Natchez. The officers of the Natchez claimed seven hours and one minute 
stoppage on account of fog and repairing machinery. The R. E. Lee was commanded by Captain 
John W. Gannon, and the Natchez was in charge of that veteran Southern boatman, Captain 
Thomas P. Leathers. 



THESE dry details are of importance in one particular. 
They give me an opportunity of introducing one of 
the Mississippi's oddest peculiarities, — that of shortening 
its length from time to time. If you will throw a long, 
pliant apple-paring over your shoulder, it will pretty fairly 
shape itself into an average section of the Mississippi River ; 
that is, the nine or ten hundred miles stretching from Cairo, 
Illinois, southward to New Orleans, the same being wonder- 
fully crooked, with a brief straight bit here and there at wide 
intervals. The two-hundred-mile stretch from Cairo north- 
ward to St. Louis is by no means so crooked, that being a 
rocky country which the river cannot cut much. 

The water cuts the alluvial banks of the " lower " river 
into deep horseshoe curves ; so deep, indeed, that in some 
places if you were to get ashore at one extremity of the 
horseshoe and walk across the neck, half or three quarters 
of a mile, you could sit down and rest a couple of hours 
while your steamer was coming around the long elbow, at 
a speed of ten miles an hour, to take you aboard again. 
When the river is rising fast, some scoundrel whose planta- 
tion is back in the country, and therefore of inferior value, 
has only to watch his chance, cut a little gutter across the 
narrow neck of land some dark night, and turn the water 
into it, and in a wonderfully short time a miracle has 
happened : to wit, the whole Mississippi has taken possession 



of that little ditch, and placed the countryman's plantation 
on its bank (quadrupling its value), and that other party's 
formerly valuable plantation finds itself away out yonder on 

a big island ; the old water- 
course around it will soon 
shoal up, boats cannot ap- 
proach within ten miles of 
it, and down goes its value 
to a fourth of its former 
worth. Watches are kept 
on those narrow necks, at 
needful times, and if a man 
happens to be caught cut- 
ting a ditch across them, 
the chances are all against 
his ever having another op- 
portunity to cut a ditch. 

Pray observe some of the 
effects of this ditching busi- 
ness. Once there was a 
neck opposite Port Hudson, 
Louisiana, which was only 
half a mile across, in its 
narrowest place. You could 
walk across there in fifteen 
minutes; but if you made 
the journey around the cape 
on a raft, you travelled 
thirty-five miles to accomplish the same thing. In 1722 
the river darted through that neck, deserted its old bed, and 
thus shortened itself thirty-five miles. In the same way it 
shortened itself twenty-five miles at Black Hawk Point in 
1699. Below Red River Landing, Raccourci cut-off was made 
(forty or fifty years ago, I think). This shortened the river 
twenty-eight miles. In our day, if you travel by river from 
the southernmost of these three cut-offs to the northernmost, 




you go only seventy miles. To do the same thing a hundred 
and seventy-six years ago, one had to go a hundred and fifty- 
eight miles ! — a shortening of eighty-eight miles in that 
trifling distance. At some forgotten time in the past, cut- 
offs were made above Vidalia, Louisiana ; at island 92 ; at 
island 84 ; and at Hale's Point. These shortened the river, 
in the aggregate, seventy- 
seven miles. 

Since my own day on 
the Mississippi, cut-offs 
have been made at Hur- 
ricane Island ; at island 
100 ; at Napoleon, Ar- 
kansas ; at Walnut Bend ; 
and at Council Bend. 
These shortened the river, 
in the aggregate, 
sixty - seven miles 
In my own time 
a cut-off was 
made at Amer- 
ican Bend, 
which short- 
ened the river 
ten miles or 

the Mississippi between Cairo and 
New Orleans was twelve hundred 
and fifteen miles long one hun- A scientist. 

dred and seventy-six years ago. 

It was eleven hundred and eighty after the cut off of 1722. 
It was one thousand and forty after the American Bend 
cut-off. It has lost sixty-seven miles since. Consequently 
its length is only nine hundred and seventy-three miles at 


Now, if I wanted to be one of those ponderous scientific 
people, and " let on " to prove what had occurred in the re- 
mote past by what had occurred in a given time in the recent 
past, or what will occur in the far future by what has oc- 
curred in late years, what an opportunity is here ! Geology 
never had such a chance, nor such exact data to argue from ! 
Nor " development of species," either ! Glacial epochs are 
great things, but they are vague — vague. Please observe : — 

In the space of one hundred and seventy-six years the 
Lower Mississippi has shortened itself two hundred and forty- 
two miles. That is an average of a trifle over one mile and 
a third per year. Therefore, any calm person, who is not 
blind or idiotic, can see that in the Old Oolitic Silurian 
Period, just a million years ago next November, the Lower 
Mississippi River was upwards of one million three hundred 
thousand miles long, and stuck out over the Gulf of Mexico 
like a fishing-rod. And by the same token any person can 
see that seven hundred and forty-two years from now the 
Lower Mississippi will be only a mile and three quarters 
long, and Cairo and New Orleans will have joined their 
streets together, and be plodding comfortably along under 
a single mayor and a mutual board of aldermen. There is 
something fascinating about science. One gets such whole- 
sale returns of conjecture out of such a trifling investment of 

When the water begins to flow through one of those 
ditches I have been speaking of, it is time for the people 
thereabouts to move. The water cleaves the banks away 
like a knife. By the time the ditch has become twelve or 
fifteen feet wide, the calamity is as good as accomplished, 
for no power on earth can stop it now. "When the width has 
reached a hundred yards, the banks begin to peel off in slices 
half an acre wide. The current flowing around the bend 
travelled formerly only five miles an hour ; now it is tre- 
mendously increased by the shortening of the distance. I 
was on board the first boat that tried to go through the 



cut-off at American Bend, but we did not get through. It 
was toward midnight, and a wild night it was — thunder, 
lightning, and torrents of rain. It was estimated that the 
current in the cut-off was making about fifteen or twenty 
miles an hour ; twelve or thirteen was the best our boat 
could do, even in tolerably slack water, therefore perhaps 
we were foolish to try the cut-off. However, Mr. Brown 



was ambitious, and he kept on trying. 
~The eddy running up the bank, under the 
" point," was about as swift as the current 
out in the middle ; so we would go flying up 
the shore like a lightning express train, get on 
a big head of steam, and " stand by for a surge " when we 
struck the current that was whirling by the point. But 
all our preparations were useless. The instant the cur- 
rent hit us it spun us around like a top, the water deluged 
the forecastle, and the boat careened so far over that one 
could hardly keep his feet. The next instant we were 



away down the river, clawing with might and main to 
keep out of the woods. We tried the experiment four 
times. I stood on the forecastle companion way to see. 
It was astonishing to observe how suddenly the boat would 
spin around and turn tail the moment she emerged from 
the eddy and the current struck her nose. The sound- 
ing concussion and the quivering would have been about 
the same if she had come full speed against a sand-bank. 
Under the lightning flashes one could see the plantation 
cabins and the goodly acres tumble into the river ; and the 
crash they made was not a bad effort at thunder. Once, 
when we spun around, we only missed a house about twenty 
feet, that had a light burning in the window ; and in the 
same instant that house went overboard. Nobody could stay 
on our forecastle ; the water swept across it in a torrent every 
time we plunged athwart the current. At the end of our 
fourth effort we brought up in the woods two miles below 
the cut-off ; all the country there was overflowed, of course. 
A day or two later the cut-off was three quarters of a mile 
wide, and boats passed up through it without much difficulty, 
and so saved ten miles. ■ 

The old Raccourci cut-off reduced the river's length twenty- 
eight miles. There used to be a tradition connected with it. 
It was said that a boat came along there in the night and 
went around the enormous elbow the usual way, the pilots 
not knowing that the cut-off had been made. It was a grisly, 
hideous night, and all shapes were vague and distorted. The 
old bend had already begun to fill up, and the boat got to 
running away from mysterious reefs, and occasionally hitting 
one. The perplexed pilots fell to swearing, and finally uttered 
the entirely unnecessary wish that they might never get out 
of that place. As always happens in such cases, that par- 
ticular prayer was answered, and the others neglected. So 
to this day that phantom steamer is still butting around in 
that deserted river, trying to find her way out. More than 
one grave watchman has sworn to me that on drizzly, dismal 



nights, he has glanced fear, 
fully down that forgotten riv- 
er as he passed the head of 
the island, and seen the faint 
glow of the spectre steamer's 
lights drifting through the 
distant gloom, and heard the 
muffled cough of her 'scape- 
pipes and the plaintive cry 
of her leads-men. 

In the absence of further 
statistics, I beg to close this 
chapter with one more remi- 
niscence of " Stephen." 

Most of the captains and 

pilots held Stephen's note 

for borrowed sums, ranging 

from two hundred and fifty dollars upward. Stephen never 

paid one of these notes, but he was very prompt and very 

zealous about renewing them every twelve month. 

Of course there came a time, at last, when Stephen could 
no longer borrow of his ancient creditors ; so he was obliged 
to lie in wait for new men who did not know him. Such a 
victim was good-hearted, simple-natured young Yates (I use 


a fictitious name, but the real name began, as this one does, 
with a Y). Young Yates graduated as a pilot, got a berth, 
and when the month was ended and he stepped up to the 
clerk's office and received his two hundred and fifty dollars 
in crisp new bills, Stephen was there ! His silvery tongue 
began to wag, and in a very little while Yates's two hun- 
dred and fifty dollars had changed hands. The fact was 
soon known at pilot headquarters, and the amusement and 
satisfaction of the old creditors were large and generous. 
But innocent Yates never suspected that Stephen's promise 
to pay promptly at the end of the week was a worthless one. 
Yates called for his money at the stipulated time ; Stephen 
sweetened him up and put him off a week. He called then, 
according to agreement, and came away sugar-coated again, 
but suffering under another postponement. So the thing 
went on. Yates haunted Stephen week after week, to no 
purpose, and at last gave it up. And then straightway Ste- 
phen began to haunt Yates ! Wherever Yates appeared, 
there was the inevitable Stephen. And not only there, but 
beaming with affection and gushing with apologies for not 
being able to pay. By and by, whenever poor Yates saw 
him coming, he would turn and fly, and drag his company 
with him, if he had company ; but it was of no use ; his 
debtor would run him down and corner him. Panting and 
red-faced, Stephen would come, with outstretched hands and 
eager eyes, invade the conversation, shake both of Yates's 
arms loose in their sockets, and begin : — 

" My, what a race I 've had ! I saw you did n't see me, 
and so I clapped on all steam for fear I 'd miss you entirely. 
And here you are ! there, just stand so, and let me look at 
you ! Just the same old noble countenance." [To Yates's 
friend :] " Just look at him ! Look at him ! Ain't it just 
good to look at him ! Ain't it now ? Ain't he just a picture ! 
Some call him a picture ; I call him a panorama ! That 's 
what he is — an entire panorama. And now I 'm reminded ! 
How I do wish I could have seen you an hour earlier ! For 



twenty-four hours I 've been saving up that two hundred and 
fifty dollars for you ; been looking for you everywhere. I 


waited at the Planter's from six yesterday evening till two 
o'clock this morning, without rest or food ; my wife says, 
< Where have you been all night ? ' I said, ' This debt lies 

214 A NEW WAY 

heavy on my mind.' She says, ' In all my days I never saw 
a man take a debt to heart the way you do.' I said, ' It 's 
my nature ; how can / change it ? ' She says, ' Well, do go 
to bed and get some rest.' I said, 'Not till that poor, noble 
young man has got his money.' So I set up all night, and 
this morning out I shot, and the first man I struck told me 
you had Shipped on the ' Grank Turk ' and gone to New 
Orleans. Well, sir, I had to lean up against a building and 
cry. So help me goodness, I could n't help it. The man 
that owned the place come out cleaning up with a rag, and 
said he did n't like to have people cry against his building, 
and then it seemed to me that the whole world had turned 
against me, and it was n't any use to live any more ; and 
coming along an hour ago, suffering no man knows what 
agony, I met Jim Wilson and paid him the two hundred 
and fifty dollars on account ; and to think that here you 
are, now, and I have n't got a cent ! But as sure as I am 
standing here on this ground on this particular brick, — 
there, I 've scratched a mark on the brick to remember it 
by, — I '11 borrow that money and pay it over to you at 
twelve o'clock sharp, to-morrow ! Now, stand so ; let me 
look at you just once more." 

And so on. Yates's life became a burden to him. He 
could not escape his debtor and his debtor's awful sufferings 
on account of not being able to pay. He dreaded to show 
himself in the street, lest he should find Stephen lying in 
wait for him at the corner. 

Bogart's billiard saloon was a great resort for pilots in 
those days. They met there about as much to exchange 
river news as to play. One morning Yates was there ; Ste- 
phen was there, too, but kept out of sight. But by and 
by, when about all the pilots had arrived who were in town, 
Stephen suddenly appeared in the midst, and rushed for 
Yates as for a long-lost brother. 

" Oh, I am so glad to see you ! Oh my soul, the sight of 
you is such a comfort to my eyes ! Gentlemen, I owe all 



of you money ; among you I owe probably forty thousand 
dollars. I want to pay it ; I intend to pay it — every last 
cent of it. You all know, without my telling you, what 
sorrow it has cost me to remain so long under such deep 
obligations to such 
patient and gener- 
ous friends ; but 
the sharpest pang 
I suffer — by far 
the sharpest — 
is from the debt 
I owe to this 
noble young man 
here; and I 
have come to this 
place this morn- 
ing especially to 
make the an- 
nouncement that 
I have at last 
found a method 
whereby I can 
pay off all my 
debts ! And most 
especially I wanted 
him to be here 
when I announced 
it. Yes, my faith- 
ful friend, — my benefactor, I Ve found the method! I've 
found the method to pay off all my debts, and you'll get 
your money ! " Hope dawned in Yates's eye ; then Ste- 
phen, beaming benignantly, and placing his hand upon 
Yates's head, added, " I am going to pay them off in alpha- 
betical order ! " 

Then he turned and disappeared. The full significance of 
Stephen's " method " did not dawn upon the perplexed and 




musing crowd for some two minutes ; and then Yates mur- 
mured with a sigh : — 

" Well, the Y's stand a gaudy chance. He won't get any 
further than the C's in this world, and I reckon that after a 
good deal of eternity has wasted away in the next one, I '11 
still be referred to up there as ' that poor, ragged pilot that 
came here 'from St. Louis in the early days ! ' " 



DURING the two or two and a half years of my appren- 
ticeship, I served under many pilots, and had experi- 
ence of many kinds of steamboatmen and many varieties of 
steamboats ; for it was not always convenient for Mr. Bixby 
to have me with him, and in such cases he sent me with 
somebody else. I am to this day profiting somewhat by 
that experience ; for in that brief, sharp schooling, I got 
personally and familiarly acquainted with about all the dif- 
ferent types of human nature that are to be found in fiction, 
biography, or history. The fact is daily borne in upon 
me, that the average shore-employment requires as much as 
forty years to equip a man with this sort of an education. 
When I say I am still profiting by this thing, I do not mean 
that it has constituted me a judge of men — no, it has not 
done that ; for judges of men are born, not made. My profit 
is various in kind and degree ; but the feature of it which I 
value most is the zest which that early experience has given 
to my later reading. When I find a well-drawn character in 
fiction or biography, I generally take a warm personal inter- 
est in him, for the reason that I have known him before — 
met him on the river. 

The figure that comes before me oftenest, out of the shad- 
ows of that vanished time, is that of Brown, of the steamer 
"Pennsylvania" — the man referred to in a former chapter, 
whose memory was so good and tiresome. He was a middle- 
aged, long, slim, bony, smooth-shaven, horse-faced, ignorant, 
stingy, malicious, snarling, fault-hunting, mote-magnifying 



tyrant. I early got the habit of coming on watch with dread 
at my heart. No matter how good a time I might have been 

having with the off-watch below, 
and no matter how high my spir- 
its might be when I started aloft, 
my soul became lead in my body 
the moment I approached the 

I still remember the first time 
I ever entered the presence of 
that man. The boat had backed 
out from St. Louis and was 
" straightening down ; " I ascend- 
ed to the pilot-house in high 
feather, and very proud to be 
semi-officially a member of the 
executive family of so fast and 
famous a boat. Brown was at 
the wheel. I paused in the mid- 
dle of the room, all fixed to make 
my bow, but Brown did not look 
around. I thought he took a 
furtive glance at me out of the 
corner of his eye, but as not even 
this notice was repeated, I judged 
I had been mistaken. By this time he was picking his way 
among some dangerous " breaks " abreast the wood-yards ; 
therefore it would not be proper to interrupt him ; so I 
stepped softly to the high bench and took a seat. 

There was silence for ten minutes ; then my new boss 
turned and inspected me deliberately and painstakingly 
from head to heel for about — as it seemed to me — a quar- 
ter of an hour. After which he removed his countenance 
and I saw it no more for some seconds ; then it came around 
once more, and this question greeted me : — 
" Are you Horace Bigsby's cub ? " 




"Yes, sir." 

After this there was a pause and another inspection. 
Then : 

" What's your name ? " 

I told him. He repeat- 
ed it after me. It was 
probably the only 
thing he ever for- 
got ; for although 
I was with him 
many months 
he never ad- 
dressed him- 
self to me in 
any other way — z p^jP 
than "Here!" 
and then his 

command (/ , 

was you 
born ? " 

"In Flori- 
da, Missouri." 

A pause. 
Then : — 

" Dern sight 
better staid 
there ! " 

By means of 
a dozen or so of pretty direct questions, he pumped my 
family history out of me. 

The leads were going now, in the first crossing. This 
interrupted the inquest. When the leads had been laid in, 
he resumed : — 

" How long you been on the river ?" 




I told him. After a pause : — 
" Where 'd you get them shoes ? " 

I gave 

lim the in- 


" Hold 



foot ! " 

I did 












temptuously , scratch- 
ing his head thought- 
fully, tilting his high 
sugar-loaf hat well 
forward to facilitate 
the operation, then 
ejaculated, " Well, 
I'll be dod derned ! " 
and returned to his 

What occasion 
there was to' be dod 
derned about it is a 
thing which is still 
as much of a mys- 
tery to me now as it 
was then. It must 
have been all of fifteen 
minutes — fifteen min- 
utes of dull, home- 
sick silence — before 
that long horse-face 
swung round upon me 
again — and then, what 
It was as red as fire, and every muscle in it was 


a change ! 

working. Now came this shriek 



" Here ! — You going 
I lit in the middle of 

suddenness of the 

as I could get my 

apologetically : — 

orders, sir." 

'take that ice pitcher. 

all day about it ! 

to set there all day ? " 
the floor, shot there by the electric 
surprise. As soon 
voice I said, 
" I have had no 
"You've had 
no orders ! My, 
what a fine bird 
we are ! We 
must have or- 
ders ! Our fa- 
ther was a 
gentleman — 
owned slaves 
— and we 've 
heento school. 
Yes, we are a 
gentleman, too, 
and got to have 
orders! Orders, is it? ORDERS 
is what you want ! Dod dern 
my skin, I J ll learn you to swell 
yourself up and blow around 
here about your dod-derned or- 
ders ! Gr' way from the wheel ! " 
(I had approached it without 
knowing it.) 

I moved back a step or two, 
and stood as in a dream, all my 
senses stupefied by this frantic 

" What you standing there 
for ? Take that ice-pitcher down 
to the texas-tender — come, 
move along, and don 't you be 



The moment I got back to the pilot-house, Brown said : 

" Here ! What was you doing down there all this time ? " 
" I could n't find the texas-tender ; I had to go all the way 

to the pantry." 

" Denied likely story ! Fill up the stove." 

I proceeded to do so. He watched me like a cat. Presently 

he shouted : — 

" Put down that 
est numskull I ever 
got sense enough to 

All through the 
of thing went on. Yes, 
quent watches were 
during a stretch of 
have said, I soon got 
ing on duty with 
ment I was in the presence, even in the 
could feel those yellow eyes upon me, and 


shovel ! Dernd- 
saw — ain't even 
load up a stove." 
watch this sort 
and the snbse- 
much like it, 
months. As I 
the habit of com- 
dread. The mo- 
darkest night, I 
knew their owner 


was watching for a pretext to spit out some venom on me. 
Preliminarily he would say : — 

" Here ! Take the wheel." 

Two minutes later : — 

" Where in the nation you going to ? Pull her down ! 
pull her down ! " 

After another moment : — 

" Say ! You going to hold her all day ? Let her go — 
meet her ! meet her ! " 

Then he would jump from the bench, snatch the wheel 
from me, and meet her himself, pouring out wrath upon me 
all the time. 

George Ritchie was the other pilot's cub. He was having 
good times now ; for his boss, George Ealer, was as kind- 
hearted as Brown was n't. Ritchie had steered for Brown 
the season before ; consequently he knew exactly how to 
entertain himself and plague me, all by the one operation. 
Whenever I took the wheel for a moment on Ealer's watch, 
Ritchie would sit back on the bench and play Brown, with 
continual ejaculations of " Snatch her ! snatch her ! Dernd- 
est mud-cat I ever saw ! " " Here ! Where you going now ? 
Going to run over that snag ? " " Pull her down ! Don't 
you hear me? Pull her down!" "There she goes ! Just 
as I expected ! I told you not to cramp that reef. G' way 
from the wheel ! " 

So I always had a rough time of it, no matter whose 
watch it was ; and sometimes it seemed to me that Ritchie's 
good-natured badgering was pretty nearly as aggravating as 
Brown's dead-earnest nagging. 

I often wanted to kill Brown, but this would not answer. 
A cub had to take everything his boss gave, in the way of 
vigorous comment and criticism ; and we all believed that 
there was a United States law making it a penitentiary 
offence to strike or threaten a pilot who was on duty. 
However, I could imagine myself killing Brown ; there was 
no law against that ; and that was the thing I used always 



to do the moment I was abed. Instead of going over my 
river in my mind as was my duty, I threw business aside 
for pleasure, and killed Brown. I killed Brown every night 
for months ; not in old, stale, commonplace ways, but in 
new and picturesque ones, — ways that were sometimes sur- 
prising for freshness of design and ghastliness of situation 
and environment. 

Brown was always watching for a pretext to find fault ; 
a*hd if he could find no plausible pretext, he would invent 
one. He would scold you for shaving a shore, and for not 
shaving it ; 
for hugging 
a bar, and 
for not hug- 
ging it ; for 


" pulling down " when not invited, and for not pulling down 
when not invited ; for firing up without orders, and for wait- 
ing for orders. In a word, it was his invariable rule to 
find fault with everything you did ; and another invariable 
rule of his was to throw all his remarks (to you) into the 
form of an insult. p 

One day we were approaching New Madrid, bound down 
and heavily laden. Brown was at one side of the wheel, 
steering ; I was at the other, standing by to " pull down " or 



" shove up." He cast a furtive glance at me every now and 
then. I had long ago learned what that meant ; viz., he 
was trying to invent a trap for me. I wondered what shape 
it was going to take. By and by he stepped back from the 
wheel and said in his usual snarly way : — 

" Here ! — See if you 've got gumption enough to round 
her to." 

This was simply bound to be a success ; nothing could 
prevent it ; for he had never allowed me to round the boat 
to before ; consequently, no matter 
how I might do the thing, he could 
find free fault with it. He stood 
back there with his greedy eye on 
me, and the result 
was what might 
have been foreseen : 
I lost my head in a 
quarter of a minute, 
and did n't know 
what I was about ; 
I started too early 
to bring the boat 
around, but detected 
a green gleam of 
joy in Brown's eye, 
and corrected my 
mistake ; I started 
around once more 
while too high up, 
but corrected myself 
again in time ; I 
made other false 

moves, and still managed to save myself ; but at last I grew 
so confused and anxious that I tumbled into the very 
worst blunder of all — I got too far down before beginning 
to fetch the boat around. Brown's chance was come. 






His face turned red with passion ; he made one bound, 
hurled me across the house with a sweep of his arm, spun 
the wheel down, and began to pour out a stream of vituper- 
ation upon me which lasted till he was out of breath. In the 
course of this speech he called me all the different kinds of 
hard names he could think of, and once or twice I thought he 
was even going to swear — but he had never done that, and 
he did n't this time. " Dod dern " was the nearest he ven- 
tured to the luxury of swearing, for he had been brought up 
with a wholesome respect for future fire and brimstone. 

That was an uncomfortable hour ; for there was a big 
audience on the hurricane deck. When I went to bed that 
night, I killed Brown in seventeen different ways — all of 
them new. 




TWO trips later, I got into serious trouble. Brown was 
steering; I was "-pulling down." My younger brother 
appeared on the hurricane deck, and shouted to Brown to 
stop at some landing or other a mile or so below. Brown 
gave no intimation that he had heard anything. But that 
was his way : he never condescended to take notice of an 
under clerk. The wind was blowing; Brown was deaf 
(although he always pretended he was n't), and I very much 
doubted if he had heard the order. If I had had two heads, 
I would have spoken ; but as I had only one, it seemed judi- 
cious to take care of it ; so I kept still. 

Presently, sure enough, we went sailing by that plantation. 
Captain Klinefelter appeared on the deck, and said : — 

" Let her come around, sir, let her come around. Did n't 
Henry tell you to land here ? " 

«M, sir'!" 

" I sent him up to do it." 

" He did come up ; and that 's all the good it done, the 
dod-derned fool. He never said anything." 

" Didn't you hear him ? " asked the captain of me. 

Of course I did n't want to be mixed up in this business, 
but there was no way to avoid it ; so 1 said : — 

" Yes, sir." 

I knew what Brown's next remark would be, before he 
uttered it ; it was : — 

" Shut your mouth ! you never heard anything of the 


I closed my mouth according to instructions. An hour 
later, Henry entered the pilot-house, unaware of what had 
been going on. He was a thoroughly inoffensive boy, and I 
was sorry to see him come, for I knew Brown would have 
no pity on him. Brown began, straightway : — 

" Here [ why did n't you tell me we 'd got to land at that 
plantation ? " 

" I did tell you, Mr. Brown." 

" It 's a lie ! " 

I said: — 

" You lie, yourself. He did tell you." 

Brown glared at me in unaffected surprise ; and for as 
much as a moment he was entirely speechless ; then he 
shouted to me : — 

"I'll attend to your case in a half a minute!" then to 
Henry, " And you leave the pilot-house ; out with you ! " 

It was pilot law, and must be obeyed. The boy started 
out, and even had his foot on the upper step outside the 
door, when Brown, with a sudden access of fury, picked up 
a ten-pound lump of coal and sprang after him ; but I was 
between, with a heavy stool, and I hit Brown a good honest 
blow which stretched him out. 

I had committed the crime of crimes, — I had lifted my 
hand against a pilot on duty ! I supposed I was booked for 
the penitentiary sure, and could n't be booked any surer if 
I went on and squared my long account with this person 
while I had the chance ; consequently I stuck to him and 
pounded him with my lists a considerable time, — I do not 
know how long, the pleasure of it probably made it seem 
longer than it really was; — but in the end he struggled free 
and jumped up and sprang to the wheel : a very natural 
solicitude, for, all this time, here was this steamboat tearing 
down the river at the rate of fifteen miles an hour and 
nobody at the helm ! However, Eagle Bend was two miles 
wide at this bank-full stage, and correspondingly long and 
deep ; and the boat was steering herself straight down the 




middle and taking no chances. Still, that was only luck — 
a body might have found her charging into the woods. 

Perceiving, at a glance, that the " Pennsylvania " was in 
no danger, Brown gathered up the big spy-glass, war-club 
fashion, and ordered me out of the pilot-house with more 
than Comanche bluster. But I was not afraid of him now ; 
so, instead of going, I tarried, and criticised his grammar ; I 


reformed his ferocious speeches for him, and put them into 
good English, calling his attention to the advantage of pure 
English over the bastard dialect of the Pennsylvanian col- 
lieries whence he was extracted. He could have done his 
part to admiration in a cross-fire of mere vituperation, of 
course ; but he was not equipped for this species of contro- 
versy ; so he presently laid aside his glass and took the 



wheel, muttering and shaking his head ; and I retired to 
the bench. The racket had brought everybody to the hur- 
ricane deck, and I trembled when I saw the old captain 
looking up from the midst of the crowd. I said to myself, 
" Now I am done for ! " — For although, as a rule, he was 
so fatherly and indulgent toward the boat's family, and so 

patient of minor 
shortcomings, he 
could be stern 
enough when the 
fault was worth it. 

I tried to imagine 
what he would do 
to a cub pilot who 
had been guilty of 
such a crime as 
mine, committed on 
a boat guard-deep 
with costly freight 
and alive with pas- 
sengers. Our watch 
was nearly ended. 
I thought I would 
go and hide some- 
where till I got a 
chance to slide 
ashore. So I slipped 
out of the pilot- 
house, and down 
the steps, and around to the texas door, — and was in the 
act of gliding within, when the captain confronted me ! 
I dropped my head, and he stood over me in silence a 
moment or two, then said impressively, — 
" Follow me." 

I dropped into his wake ; he led the way to his parlor in 
the forward end of the texas. We were alone, now. He 



closed the after door ; then moved slowly to the forward one 
and closed that. He sat down ; I stood before him. He 
looked at me some little time, then said, — 

' : So you have been lighting Mr. Brown ? " 

I answered meekly : — 

" Yes, sir." 

" Do you know that that is a very serious matter ? " 

" Yes, sir." 

" Are you aware that this boat was ploughing down the 
river fully five minutes with no one at the wheel ? " 

" Yes, sir." 

" Did you strike him first ? " 

"Yes, sir." 

" What with ? " 

" A stool, sir." 

" Hard ? " 

" Middling, sir." 

" Did it knock him down ? " 

" He — he fell, sir." 

" Did you follow it up ? Did you do anything further ? " 

" Yes, sir." 

" What did you do ? " 

" Pounded him, sir." 

" Pounded him ? " 

" Yes, sir." 

" Did you pound him much ? — that is, severely ? " 

" One might call it that, sir, maybe." 

"I 'm deuced glad of it ! Hark ye, never mention that I 
said that. You have been guilty of a great crime ; and don't 
you ever be guilty of it again, on this boat. But — lay for 
him ashore ! Give him a good sound thrashing, do you hear ? 
I '11 pay the expenses. Now go — and mind you, not a word 
of this to anybody. Clear out with you ! — you 've been 
guilty of a great crime, you whelp ! " 

I slid out, happy with the sense of a close shave and 
a mighty deliverance ; and T heard him laughing to 



himself and slapping his fat thighs after I had closed his 

When Brown came off watch he went straight to the cap- 
tain, who was talking with some passengers on the boiler 
deck, and demanded that I be put ashore in New Orleans — 
and added : — 

"an emancipated slave." 

" I '11 never turn a wheel on this boat again while that 
cub stays." 

The captain said : — 

"But he needn't come round when you are on watch, 
Mr. Brown." 



" I won't even stay on the same boat with him. One of 
us has got to go ashore." 

" Very well," said the captain, " let it be yourself ; " and 
resumed his talk with the passengers. 

During the brief remainder of the trip, I knew how an 
emancipated slave feels ; for I was an emancipated slave 
myself. While we lay at landings, I listened to George 
Ealer's flute ; or to his readings from his two bibles, that 
is to say, Goldsmith and Shakspeare ; or I played chess 
with him — and would have beaten him sometimes, only 
he always took back his last move and ran the game out 



WE lay three days in New Orleans, bat the captain did 
not succeed in finding another pilot ; so he proposed 
that I should stand a daylight watch, and leave the night 
watches to George Ealer. But I was afraid ; I had never 
stood a watch of any sort by myself, and I believed I should 
be sure to get into trouble in the head of some chute, or 
ground the boat in a near cut through some bar or other. 
Brown remained in his place ; but he would not travel with 
me. So the captain gave me an order on the captain of the 
" A. T. Lacey," for a passage to St. Louis, and said he would 
find a new pilot there and my steersman's berth could then 
be resumed. The " Lacey " was to leave a couple of da} r s 
after the " Pennsylvania." 

The night before the " Pennsylvania " left, Henry and I sat 
chatting on a freight pile on the levee till midnight. The 
subject of the chat, mainly, was one which I think we had 
not exploited before — steamboat disasters. One was then 
on its way to us, little as we suspected it ; the water which 
was to make the steam which should cause it, was washing 
past some point fifteen hundred miles up the river while we 
talked ; — but it would arrive at the right time and the right 
place. We doubted if persons not clothed with authority 
were of much use in cases of disaster and attendant panic ; 
still, they might be of some use ; so we decided that if a dis- 
aster ever fell within our experience we would at least stick 
to the boat, and give such minor service as chance might 
throw in the way. Henry remembered this, afterward, when 
the disaster came, and acted accordingly. 



The " Lacey " started up the river two days behind the 
" Pennsylvania." We touched at Greenville, Mississippi, a 
couple of days out, and somebody shouted : — 

" The ' Pennsylvania ' is blown up at Ship Island, and a 
hundred and fifty lives lost ! " 

At Napoleon, Arkansas, the same evening, we got an 
extra, issued by a Memphis paper, which gave some particu- 
lars. It men- 
tioned my broth- 
er, and said he 
was not hurt. 

Further up the 
river we got a 
later extra. My 
brother was again 
mentioned ; but 
this time as be- 
ing hurt beyond 
help. We d i d 
not get full de- 
tails of the catas- 
trophe until we 
1 ' reached Mem- 

phis. This is the 
sorrowful story : — 

It was six o'clock on 
a hot summer morning. 
The " Pennsylvania " was 
creeping along, north of 
Ship Island, about sixty 
miles below Memphis on 
a half-head of steam, tow- 
ing a wood-flat which was fast being emptied. George Ealer 
was in the pilot-house — alone, I think; the second engineer 
and a striker had the watch in the engine room ; the second 
mate had the watch on deck ; George Black, Mr. Wood, and 




my brother, clerks, were asleep, as were also Brown and the 

head engineer, the carpenter, the chief mate, and one striker ; 

Capt. Klinefelter was in the barber's chair, and the barber 

was preparing to shave him. There were a 

good many cabin passengers aboard, and 

three or lour hundred deck passengers — 

so it was said at the time — and not very 

many of them were astir. The wood being 


nearly all out of the flat now, Ealer rang to " come ahead " 
full steam, and the next moment four of the eight boilers 
exploded with a thunderous crash, and the whole forward 
third of the boat was hoisted toward the sky! The main 



part of the mass, 
with the chim- 
neys, dropped up- 
on the boat again, 
a mountain of 
riddled* and cha- 
otic rubbish — 
and then, after a 
little, fire broke 

Many people were flung 
to considerable distances, 
and fell in the river ; 
among these were Mr. 
Wood and my brother, 
and the carpenter. The 
carpenter was still 
stretched upon his mat- 
tress when he struck the 
water seventy-five feet 
from the boat. Brown, 
the pilot, and George 
Black, chief clerk, were 
never seen or heard of 





after the explosion. The barber's chair, with Captain Kline- 
felter in it and unhurt, was left with its back overhanging 
vacancy — everything forward of it, floor and all, had dis- 
appeared ; and the stupefied barber, who was also unhurt, 

stood with one toe 
projecting over space, 
still stirring his lath- 
er unconsciously, and 
saying not a word. 

When George 
Ealer saw the chim- 
neys plunging aloft 
in front of hirn, he 
knew what the mat- 
ter was ; so he muf- 
fled his face in the 
lapels of his coat, 
a n d pressed both 
hands there tightly 
to keep this protec- 
tion in its place so 
that no steam could 
get to his nose or 
mouth. He had am- 
ple time to attend to 
these details while he 
was going up and 
returning. He pres- 
ently landed on top 
of the unexploded 
boilers, forty feet be- 
low the former pilot- 
house, accompanied 
by his wheel and a rain of other stuff, and enveloped in a 
cloud of scalding steam. All of the many who breathed that 
steam, died ; none escaped. But Ealer breathed none of it. 



He made his way to the free air as quickly as he could ; and 
when the steam cleared away he returned and climbed up 
on the boilers again, and patiently hunted out each and every 
one of his chessmen and the several joints of his flute. 

By this time the fire was beginning to threaten. Shrieks 
and groans filled the air. A great many persons had been 
scalded, a great many crippled ; the explosion had driven an 
iron crowbar through one man's body — I think they said he 
was a priest. He did not die at once, and his sufferings 
were very dreadful. A young French naval cadet, of fif- 
teen, son of a French admiral, was fearfully scalded, but 
bore his tortures manfully. Both mates were badly scalded, 
but they stood to their posts, nevertheless. They drew the 
wood-boat aft, and they and the captain fought back the 
frantic herd of frightened immigrants till the wounded could 
be brought there and placed in safety first. 

When Mr. Wood and Henry fell in the water, they struck 
out for shore, which was only a few hundred yards away ; 
but Henry presently said he believed he was not hurt, (what 
an unaccountable error !) and therefore would swim back to 
the boat and help save the wounded. So they parted, and 
Henry returned. 

By this time the fire was making fierce headway, and 
several persons who were imprisoned under the ruins were 
begging piteously for help. All efforts to conquer the fire 
proved fruitless ; so the buckets were presently thrown aside 
and the officers fell-to with axes and tried to cut the pris- 
oners out. A striker was one of the captives; he said he 
was not injured, but could not free himself; and when 
he saw that the fire was likely to drive away the workers, he 
begged that some one would shoot him, and thus save him 
from the more dreadful death. The fire did drive the axe- 
men away, and they had to listen, helpless, to this poor fel- 
low's supplications till the flames ended his miseries. 

The fire drove all into the wood-flat that could be accom- 
modated there ; it was cut adrift, then, and it and the burn- 




ing steamer floated down the river toward Ship Island. 
They moored the flat at the head of the island, and there, 
unsheltered from the blazing sun, the half-naked occupants 
had to remain, without food or stimulants, or help for 


their hurts, during the rest of the day. A steamer came 
along, finally, and carried the unfortunates to Memphis, 
and there the most lavish assistance was at ouce forth- 
coming. By this time Henry was insensible. The physi- 
cians examined his injuries and saw that they were fatal> 


and naturally turned their main attention to patients who 
could be saved. 

Forty of the wounded were placed upon pallets on the 
floor of a great public hall, and among these was Henry. 
There the ladies of Memphis came every day, with flowers, 
fruits, and dainties and delicacies of all kinds, and there 
they remained and nursed the wounded. All the physicians 
stood watches there, and all the medical students ; and the 
rest of the town -furnished money, or whatever else was 
wanted. And Memphis knew how to do all these things 
well ; for many a disaster like the " Pennsylvania's " had hap- 
pened near her doors, and she was experienced, above all 
other cities on the river, in the gracious office of the Good 

The sight I saw when I entered that large hall was new 
and strange to me. Two long rows of prostrate forms — 
more than forty, in all — and every face and head a shape- 
less wad of loose raw cotton. It was a grewsome spectacle. 
T watched there six days and nights, and a very melancholy 
experience it was. There was one daily incident which was 
peculiarly depressing : this was the removal of the doomed 
to a chamber apart. It was done in order that the morale 
of the other patients might not be injuriously affected by 
seeing one of their number in the death-agony. The fated 
one was always carried out with as little stir as possible, 
and the stretcher was always hidden from sight by a wall 
of assistants ; but no matter : everybody knew what that 
cluster of bent forms, with its muffled step and its slow 
movement meant ; and all eyes watched it wistfully, and a 
shudder went abreast of it like a wave. 

I saw many poor fellows removed to the " death-room," 
and saw them no more afterward. But I saw our chief mate 
carried thither more than once. His hurts were frightful, 
especially his scalds. He was clothed in linseed oil and raw 
cotton to his waist, and resembled nothing human. He was 
often out of his mind ; and then his pains would make him 



rave and shout and sometimes shriek. Then, after a period 
of dumb exhaustion, his disordered imagination would sud- 
denly transform the great apartment into a forecastle, and 
the hurrying throng of nurses into the crew ; and he would 

come to a sitting posture 
and shout, " Hump your- 
y ourselves, 



you petrifactions, snail-bellies, pall-bearers! going to be all 
day getting that hatful of freight out ? " and supplement 
this explosion with a firmament-obliterating irruption of 
profanity which nothing could stay or stop till his crater 
was empty. And now and then while these frenzies pos- 


sessed him, he would tear off handfuls of the cotton and 
expose his cooked flesh to view. It was horrible. It 
was bad for the others, of course — this noise and these 
exhibitions ; so the doctors tried to give him morphine to 
quiet him. But, in his mind or out of it, he would not take 
it. He said his wife had been killed by that treacherous 
drug, and he would die before he would take it. He sus- 
pected that the doctors were concealing it in his ordinary 
medicines and in his water — so he ceased from putting 
either to his lips. Once, when he had been without water 
during two sweltering days, he took the dipper in his hand, 
and the sight of the limpid fluid, and the misery of his 
thirst, tempted him almost beyond his strength ; but he 
mastered himself and threw it away, and after that he 
allowed no more to be brought near him. Three times I 
saw him carried to the death-room, insensible and supposed 
to be dying; but each time he revived, cursed his attend- 
ants, and demanded to be taken back. He lived to be mate 
of a steamboat again. 

But he was the only one who went to the death-room and 
returned alive. Dr. Peyton, a principal physician, and rich 
in all the attributes that go to constitute high and flawless 
character, did all that educated judgment and trained skill 
could do for Henry ; but, as the newspapers had said in the 
beginning, his hurts were past help. On the evening of the 
sixth day his wandering mind busied itself with matters 
far away, and his nerveless fingers " picked at his coverlet." 
His hour had struck ; we bore him to the death-room, poor 



IN due course I got my license. 1 was a pilot now, full 
fledged. I dropped into casual employments ; no mis- 
fortunes resulting, intermittent work gave place to steady 
and protracted engagements. Time drifted smoothly and 
prosperously on, and I supposed — and hoped — that I was 
going to follow the river the rest of my days, and die at the 
wheel when my mission was ended. But by and by the war 
came, commerce was suspended, my occupation was gone. 

I had to seek another livelihood. So I became a silver 
miner in Nevada ; next, a newspaper reporter ; next, a gold 
miner, in California ; next, a reporter in San Francisco ; 
next, a special correspondent in the Sandwich Islands ; next, 
a roving correspondent in Europe and the East ; next, an 
instructional torch-bearer on the lecture platform ; and, 
finally, I became a scribbler of books, and an immovable 
fixture among the other rocks of New England. 

In so few words have I disposed of the twenty-one slow- 
drifting years that have come and gone since I last looked 
from the windows of a pilot-house. 

Let us resume, now. 



AFTER twenty-one years' absence, I felt a very strong 
desire to see the river again, and the steamboats, and 
such of the boys as might be left ; so I resolved to go out 
there. I enlisted a poet for company, and a stenographer 
to " take him down," and started westward about the middle 
of April. 

As I proposed to make notes, with a view to printing, I 
took some thought as to methods of procedure. I reflected 
that if I were recognized, on the river, I should not be as 
free to go and come, talk, inquire, and spy around, as I should 
be if unknown ; I remembered that it was the custom of 
steamboatmen in the old times to load up the confiding 
stranger with the most picturesque and admirable lies, and 
put the sophisticated friend off with dull and ineffectual facts : 
so I concluded, that, from a business point of view, it would 
be an advantage to disguise our party with fictitious names. 
The idea was certainly good, but it bred infinite bother; 
for although Smith, Jones, and Johnson are easy names to 
remember when there is no occasion to remember them, it is 
next to impossible to recollect them when they are wanted. 
How do criminals manage to keep a brand-new alias in 
mind ? This is a great mystery. I was innocent ; and yet 
was seldom able to lay my hand on my new name when it 
was needed ; and it seemed to me that if I had had a crime 
on my conscience to further confuse me, I could never have 
kept the name by me at all. 



We left per Pennsylvania Railroad, at 8 a. m. April 18. 

" Evening. Speaking of dress. Grace and picturesqueness drop 
gradually out of it as one travels away from New York." 

I find that among my notes. It makes no difference 
which direction you take, the fact remains the same. Whether 
you move north, south, east, or west, no matter : you can get 
up in the morning and guess how far you have come, by 
noting what degree of grace and picturesqueness is by that 
time lacking in the costumes of the new passengers ; — I do 
not mean of the women alone, but of both sexes. It may be 
that carriage is at the bottom of this thing ; and I think it 
is ; for there are plenty of ladies and gentlemen in the 
provincial cities whose garments are all made by the best 
tailors and dressmakers of New York ; yet this has no 


perceptible effect upon the grand fact : the educated eye 
never mistakes those people for New-Yorkers. No, there is 
a godless grace, and snap, and style about a born and bred 
New-Yorker which mere clothing cannot effect. 

"April 19. This morning, struck into the region of full goatees 
— sometimes accompanied by a moustache, but only occasionally." 

It was odd to come upon this thick crop of an obsolete 
and uncomely fashion ; it was like running suddenly across 
a forgotten acquaintance whom you had supposed dead for a 



generation. The goatee extends over a wide extent of coun- 
try ; and is accompanied by an iron-clad belief in Adam and 
the biblical history of creation, which has not suffered from 
the assaults of the scientists. 

" Afternoon. At the railway stations the loafers carry both hands 
in their breeches pockets ; it was observable, heretofore, that one 
hand was sometimes out of doors, — here, 
never. This is an important fact in geog- 

If the loafers determined the character 
of a country, it would be still more 
important, of course. 

"Heretofore, all along, the station- 
loafer has been often ob- 
served to scratch one shin 
with the other foot ; here, 
these remains of activity are 
wanting. This has an omi- 
nous look." 

By and by, we entered 
the tobacco-chewing re- 
gion. Fifty years ago, the tobacco- 
chewing region covered the Union. It 
is greatly restricted now. 
boots began to appear. Not in strong 
however. Later — away down the Mis- 
— they became the rule. They disap- 
from other sections of the Union with the 
no doubt they will disappear from the 
villages, also, when proper pavements 
Louis at ten o'clock at night. At the 

mud ; 

We reached St 
counter of the hotel I tendered a hurriedly-invented fictitious 
name, with a miserable attempt at careless ease. The clerk 




paused, and inspected me in the compassionate way in which 
one inspects a respectable person who is found in doubtful 
circumstances ; then he said, — 

" It 's all right ; I know what sort of a room you want. 
Used to clerk at the St. James, in New York." 

A n unpromising 
beginning for a 
fraudulent career. 
We started to the 
supper room, and 
met two other men 
whom I had known 
elsewhere. How odd 
and unfair it is : 
wicked impostors go 
around lecturing un- 
der my nom de guerre, 
and nobody suspects 
them; but when an 
honest man attempts 
an imposture, he is 
exposed at once. 

One thing seemed 
plain : we must start 
down the river the 
next day, if people 
who could not be deceived were going to crop up at this 
rate : an unpalatable disappointment, for we had hoped to 
have a week in St. Louis. The Southern was a good hotel, 
and we could have had a comfortable time there. It is 
large, and well conducted, and its decorations do not 
make one cry, as do those of the vast Palmer House, in 
Chicago. True, the billiard-tables were of the Old Silurian 
Period, and the cues and balls of the Post-Pliocene ; but 
there was refreshment in this, not discomfort ; for there is 
rest and healing in the contemplation of antiquities. 




The most notable absence observable in the billiard room, 
was the absence of the river man. If he was there he had 
taken in his sign, he was in disguise. I saw there none of the 
swell airs and graces, and ostentatious displays of money, and 
pompous squanderings of it, which used to distinguish the 
steamboat crowd from the dry-land crowd in the bygone days, 
in the thronged billiard-rooms of 
St. Louis. In those times, the prin- 
cipal saloons were always populous 
with river men ; given fifty play- 
ers present, thirty or thirty-five 
were likely to be from 
the river. But I sus- 
pected that the ranks 
were thin now, and 
the steamboatmen no 
longer an aristocracy. 
Why, in my time they 
used to call the " bar- 
keep " Bill, or Joe, or 
Tom, and slap him on 
the shoulder ; I watched 
for that. But none of 
these people did it. Manifestly 
a glory that once was had dis- 
solved and vanished away in 
these twenty-one years. 

When I went up to my room, 
I found there the young man 
called Rogers, crying. Rogers 
was not his name ; neither was Jones, Brown, Dexter, Fergu- 
son, Bascom, nor Thompson ; but he answered to either of these 
that a body found handy in an emergency ; or to any other 
name, in fact, if he perceived that you meant him. He said : — 

" What is a person to do here when he wants a drink of 
water ? — drink this slush ? " 

"do you drink this slush?' 


" Can't you drink it ? " 

" I could if I had some other water to wash it with." 

Here was a thing which had not changed ; a score of 
years had not affected this water's mulatto complexion in the 
least ; a score of centuries would succeed no better, perhaps. 
It comes out of the turbulent, bank-caving Missouri, and 
every tumblerful of it holds nearly an acre of land in solu- 
tion. I got this fact from the bishop of the diocese. If you 
will let your glass stand half an hour, you can separate the 
land from the water as easy as Genesis ; and then you will 
find them both good : the one good to eat, the other good to 
drink. The land is very nourishing, the water is thoroughly 
wholesome. The one appeases hunger ; the other, thirst. 
But the natives do not take them separately, but together, 
as nature mixed them. When they find an inch of mud in 
the bottom of a glass, they stir it up, and then take the 
draught as they would gruel. It is difficult for a stranger to 
get used to this batter, but once used to it he will prefer it 
to water. This is really the case. It is. good for steamboat- 
ing, and good to drink ; but it is worthless for all other pur- 
poses, except baptizing. 

Next morning, we drove around town in the rain. The 
city seemed but little changed. It was greatly changed, but 
it did not seem so ; because in St. Louis, as in London and 
Pittsburgh, you can't persuade a new thing to look new ; the 
coal smoke turns it into an antiquity the moment you take 
your hand off it. The place had just about doubled its size, 
since I was a resident of it, and was now become a city of 
400,000 inhabitants ; still, in the solid business parts, it looked 
about as it had looked formerly. Yet I am sure there is not 
as much smoke in St. Louis now as there used to be. The 
smoke used to bank itself in a dense billowy black canopy over 
the town, and hide the sky from view. This shelter is very 
much thinner now ; still, there is a sufficiency of smoke 
there, I think. I heard no complaint. 

However, on the outskirts changes were apparent enough ; 

A NEW CITY. 253 

notably in dwelling-house architecture. The fine new homes 
are noble and beautiful and modern. They stand by them- 
selves, too, with green lawns around them ; whereas the 
dwellings of a former day are packed together in blocks, 
and are all of one pattern, with windows all alike, set in an 
arched frame-work of twisted stone ; a sort of house which 
was handsome enough when it was rarer. 

There was another change — the Forest Park. This was 
new to me. It is beautiful and very extensive, and has the 
excellent merit of having been made mainly by nature. 
There are other parks, and fine ones, notably Tower Grove 
and the Botanical Gardens ; for St. Louis interested her- 
self in such improvements at an earlier day than did the 
most of our cities. 

The first time I ever saw St. Louis, I could have bought it 
for six million dollars, and it was the mistake of my life 
that I did not do it. It was bitter now to look abroad over 
this domed and stespled metropolis, this solid expanse of 
bricks and mortar stretching away on every hand into dim, 
measure-defying distances, and remember that I had allowed 
that opportunity to go by. Why I should have allowed it to 
go by seems, of course, foolish and inexplicable to-day, at a 
first glance ; yet there were reasons at the time to justify 
this course. 

A Scotchman, Hon. Charles Augustus Murray, writing 
some forty-five or fifty years ago, said : " The streets are 
narrow, ill pave^d and ill lighted." Those streets are narrow 
still, of course ; many of them are ill paved yet ; but the re- 
proach of ill lighting cannot be repeated, now. The " Catholic 
New Church " was the only notable building then, and Mr. 
Murray was confidently called upon to admire it, with its 
" species of Grecian portico, surmounted by a kind of steeple, 
much too diminutive in its proportions, and surmounted by 
sundry ornaments " which the unimaginative Scotchman found 
himself " quite unable to describe ; " and therefore was grate- 
ful when a German tourist helped him out with the exclama- 



tion : " By — , they look exactly like bed-posts ! " St. Louis 
is well equipped with stately and noble public buildings now, 
and the little church, which the people used to be so proud of, 
lost its importance a long time ago. Still, this would not sur- 
prise Mr. Murray, if he could come back ; for he prophesied 
the coming greatness of St. Louis with strong confidence. 

The further we drove in our inspection-tour, the more 
sensibly I realized how the city had grown since I had seen 
it last ; changes in detail became steadily more apparent and 
frequent than at first, too : changes uniformly evidencing pro- 
gress, energy, prosperity. 

But the chano-e of changes was on the "levee." This time, 


a departure from the rule. Half a 
dozen sound-asleep steamboats where 
I used to see a solid mile of wide-awake ones ! This was 
melancholy, this was woful. The absence of the pervading 
and jocund steamboatman from the billiard-saloon was ex- 
plained. He was absent because he is no more. His occu- 
pation is gone, his power has passed away, he is absorbed 



into the common herd, he grinds at the mill, a shorn Samson 
and inconspicuous. Half a dozen lifeless steamboats, a mile 
of empty wharves, a negro fatigued with whiskey stretched 
asleep, in a wide and soundless vacancy, where the serried 
hosts of commerce used to contend ! 1 Here was desolation, 

" The old, old sea, as one in tears, 

Comes murmuring, with foamy lips, 
And knocking at the vacant piers, 

Calls for his long-lost multitude of ships." 

The towboat and the railroad had done their work, and 


clone it well and com- 
pletely. The mighty 
bridge, stretching along 
over our heads, had done 
its share in the slaughter and 
spoliation. Remains of former 

1 Capt. Marryat, writing forty-five years ago, says : " St. Louis has 20,000 
inhabitants. The river abreast of the town is crowded with steamboats, lying in two 
or three tiers." 


steamboatmen told me, with wan satisfaction, that the bridge 
does n't pay. Still, it can be no sufficient compensation to 
a corpse, to know that the dynamite that laid him out was 
not of as good quality as it had been supposed to be. 

The pavements along the river front were bad ; the side- 
walks were rather out of repair ; there was a rich abundance 
of mud. All this was familiar and satisfying; but the 
ancient armies of drays, and struggling throngs of men, and 
mountains of freight, were gone ; and Sabbath reigned in 
their stead. The immemorial mile of cheap foul doggeries 
remained, but business was dull with them ; the multitudes 
of poison-swilling Irishmen had departed, and in their places 
were a few scattering handfuls of ragged negroes, some 
drinking, some drunk, some nodding, others asleep. St. 
Louis is a great and prosperous and advancing city ; but the 
river-edge of it seems dead past resurrection. 

Mississippi steamboating was born about 1812 ; at the end 
of thirty years, it had grown to mighty proportions ; and in 
less than thirty more, it was dead! A strangely short life 
for so majestic a creature. Of course it is not absolutely 
dead ; neither is a crippled octogenarian who could once 
jump twenty-two feet on level ground ; but as contrasted 
with what it was in its prime vigor, Mississippi steamboating 
may be called dead. 

It killed the old-fashioned keel-boating, by reducing the 
freight-trip to New Orleans to less than a week. The rail- 
roads have killed the steamboat passenger traffic by doing in 
two or three days what the steamboats consumed a week 
in doine; ; and the towino;-fleets have killed the through- 
freight traffic by dragging six or seven steamer-loads of stuff 
down the river at a time, at an expense so trivial that 
steamboat competition was out of the question. 

Freight and passenger way-traffic remains to the steamers. 
This is in the hands — along the two thousand miles of 
river between St. Paul and New Orleans — of two or three 
close corporations well fortified with capital ; and by able 



and thoroughly business-like management and system, these 
make a sufficiency of money out of what is left of the once 
prodigious steamboating industry. I sup- 
pose that St. Louis and New Orleans have 
not suffered materially by the change, but 

alas for the 
^pr wood -yard 

is a wood-pile. 

He used to fringe 
the river all the 
way; his close- 
ranked merchan- 
dise stretched from 
the one city to the 
other, along the 
banks, and he sold 
uncountable cords 
of it every year for 
cash on the nail ; 
but all the scatter- 
ing boats that are 
left burn coal now, 
and the seldomest 
spectacle on the 
Mississippi to-day 
Where now is the once wood-yard man ? 

"''*ty .he' 





MY idea was, to tarry a while in every town between St. 
Louis and New Orleans. To do this, it would be 
necessary to go from place to place by the short packet lines. 
It was an easy plan to make, and would have been an easy 
one to follow, twenty years ago — but not now. There are 
wide intervals between boats, these days. 

•I wanted to begin with the interesting old French settle- 
ments of St. Genevieve and Kaskaskia, sixty miles below St. 
Louis. There was only one boat advertised for that section 
— a Grand Tower packet. Still, one boat was enough ; so 
we went down to look at her. She was a venerable rack- 
heap, and a fraud to boot ; for she was playing herself for 
personal property, whereas the good honest dirt was so 
thickly caked all over her that she was righteously taxable 
as real estate. There are places in New England where her 
hurricane deck would be worth a hundred and fifty dollars 
an acre. The soil on her forecastle was quite good — the 
new crop of wheat was already springing from the cracks in 
protected places. The companionway was of a dry sandy 
character, and would have been well suited for grapes, with 
a southern exposure and a little subsoiling. The soil of the 
boiler deck was thin and rocky, but good enough for grazing 
purposes. A colored boy was on watch here — nobody else 
visible. We gathered from him that this calm craft would 
go, as advertised, " if she got her trip;" if she didn't get it, 
she would wait for it. 



" Has she got any of her trip ? " 

" Bless you, no, boss. She ain't unloadened, yit. She 
only come in dis mawnin'." 

He was uncertain as to when she might get her trip, but 
thought it might be to-morrow or maybe next day. This 
would not answer at 
all ; so we had to 
give up the novelty 
of sailing down the 
river on a farm. 
We had one more 
arrow in our quiver : 
a Vicksburg packet, 
the " Gold Dust," 
was to leave at 5 
p.m. We took pas- 
sage in her for Mem- 
phis, and gave up the 
idea of stopping off 
here and there, as 
being impracticable. 
She was neat, clean, 
and comfortable. 
We camped on the 
boiler deck, and 
bought some cheap 
literature to kill 
time with. The ven- 
der was a venerable 
Irishman with a benevolent face and a tongue that worked 
easily in the socket, and from him we learned that he had 
lived in St. Louis thirty-four years and had never been across 
the river during that period. Then he wandered into a very 
flowing lecture, filled with classic names and allusions, -which 
was quite wonderful for fluency until the fact became rather 
apparent that this was not the first time, nor perhaps the 




fiftieth, that the speech had been delivered. He was a good 
deal of a character, and much better company than the sappy 

literature he was selling. 
A random remark, con- 
necting Irishmen and 
beer, brought this nug- 
get of information out 
of him : — 

" They don't drink it, 
They can't drink it, 
Give an Irishman 
lager for a month, 
and he 's a dead 
man. An Irishman 
is lined with copper, 
and the beer corrodes 
it. But whiskey pol- 
ishes the copper 
and is the saving 
of him, sir." 

At eight o'- 
clock, promptly, 
we backed out 
and — crossed the 
river. As we 
crept toward the 
shore, in the thick 
darkness, a blind- 
ing glory of white 
electric light 
burst suddenly 
from our fore- 
castle, and lit up 
the water and the warehouses as with a noon-day glare. 
Another big change, this, — no more flickering, smoky, 
pitch-dripping, ineffectual torch-baskets, now: their day is 




past. Next, instead of calling out a score of hands to 
man the stage, a couple of men and a hatful of steam 
lowered it from the derrick where it was suspended, 
launched it, deposited it in just the right spot, and the 
whole thing was over and done-with before a mate in the 
olden time could have got his profanity-mill adjusted to 
begin the preparatory services. Why this new and simple 
method of handling the stages was not thought of when 
the first steamboat was built, is a mystery which helps 
one to realize what a dull-witted slug the average human 
being is. 

We finally got away at two in the morning, and when I 
turned out at six, 
we were round- 
ing to at a rocky 
point where there 
was an old stone 
warehouse — at 
any rate, the 
ruins of it; two 

or three decayed dwel- 
ling-houses were near 
by, in the shelter of the 
a landing. leafy hills ; but there 

were no evidences of 
human or other animal life to be seen. I wondered if I 
had forgotten the river ; for I had no recollection whatever 
of this place ; the shape of the river, too, was unfamiliar ; 



there was nothing in sight, anywhere, that I could remember 
ever having seen before. I was surprised, disappointed, and 

We put ashore a well-dressed lady and gentleman, and two 
well-dressed, lady-like young girls, together with sundry 
Russia-leather bags. A strange place for such folk! No 
carriage was waiting. The party moved off as if they had 
not expected any, and struck down a winding country road 

But the mystery was explained when we got under way 

again ; for these people 
were evidently bound 
for a large town which 
lay shut in behind a 
tow-head (i. e., new 
island) a couple of 
miles below this land- 
ing. I could n't re- 
member that town ; 
I could n't place it, 
could n't call its name. 
So I lost part of my 
temper. I suspected 
that it might be St. 
Genevieve — and so it 
proved to be. Observe 
what this eccentric river 
had been about : it had 
built up this huge use- 
less tow-head directly in 
front of this town, cut 
off its river communi- 
cations, fenced it away 
completely, and made a " country " town of it. It is a 
fine old place, too, and deserved a better fate. It was 
settled by the French, and is a relic of a time when one 




could travel from the mouths of the Mississippi to Quebec 
and be on French territory and under French rule all the 

Presently I ascended to the hurricane deck and cast a 
longing glance toward the pilot-house. 



AFTER a close study of the face of the pilot on watch, I 
was satisfied that I had never seen him before ; so 
I went up there. The pilot inspected me ; I re-inspected the 
pilot. These customary preliminaries over, I sat down on the 
high bench, and he faced about and went on with his work. 
Every detail of the pilot-house was familiar to me, with one 
exception, — a large-mouthed tube under the breast-board. 
I puzzled over that thing a considerable time ; then gave up 
and asked what it was for. 

" To hear the engine-bells through." 

It was another good contrivance which ought to have been 
invented half a century sooner. So I was thinking, when the 
pilot asked, — 

" Do you know what this rope is for ? " 

I managed to get around this question, without committing 

" Is this the first time you were ever in a pilot-house ? " 

I crept under that one. 

" Where are you from ? " 

." New England." 

" First time you have ever been West ? " 

I climbed over this one. 

" If you take an interest in such things, I can tell you 
what all these things are for." 

I said I should like it. 

" This," putting his hand on a backing-bell rope, " is to 
sound the fire-alarm ; this," putting his hand on a go-a-head 



bell, " is to call the texas-tender ; this one," indicating the 
whistle-lever, " is to call the captain " — and so he went on, 
touching one object after another, and reeling off his tranquil 
spool of lies. 

I had never felt so like a passenger before. I thanked 
him, with emotion, for each new fact, and wrote it down in 


my note-book. The pilot warmed to his opportunity, and 
proceeded to load me up in the good old-fashioned way. At 
times I was afraid he was going to rupture his invention ; 
but it always stood the strain, and he pulled through all 
right. He drifted, by easy stages, into revealments of the 
river's marvellous eccentricities of one sort and another, and 



backed them up with some pretty gigantic illustrations. For 
instance, — 

" Do you see that little bowlder sticking out of the water 
yonder ? well, when I first came on the river, that was a 
solid ridge of rock, over sixty feet high and two miles long. 
All washed away but that." [This with a sigh.] 

I had a mighty impulse to destroy him, but it seemed to 
me that killing, in any ordinary way, would be too good for 

Once, when an odd-looking craft, with a vast coal-scuttle 
slanting aloft on the end of a beam, was steaming by in the 

distance, he indif- 
ferently drew atten- 
tion to it, as oire 
might to an object 
grown wearisome 
through familiarity, 
and observed that 
it was an " alligator 

"An alligator 
boat? What's it 

" To dredge out 
alligators with." 

" Are they so 
thick as to be 
troublesome ? " 
" Well, not now, because the government keeps them 
down. But they used to be. Not everywhere ; but in 
favorite places, here and there, where the river is wide and 
shoal — like Plum Point, and Stack Island, and so on — 
places they call alligator beds." 

" Did they actually impede navigation ? " 
" Years ago, yes, in very low water ; there was hardly a 
trip, then, that we did n't get aground on alligators." 



It seemed to me that I should certainly have to get out 
my tomahawk. However, I restrained myself and said, — 

" It must have been dreadful." 

" Yes, it was one of the main difficulties about piloting. 
It was so hard to tell anything about the water ; the damned 
things shift around so — never lie still five minutes at a time. 
You can tell a wind-reef, straight off, by the look of it ; you 
can tell a break ; you can tell a sand-reef — that 's all easy ; 
but an alligator reef does n't show up, worth anything. Nine 
times in ten you can't tell where the water is ; and when you 


do see where it is, like as not it ain't there when you get 
there, the devils have swapped around so, meantime. Of 
course there were some few pilots that could judge of alli- 
gator water nearly as well as they could of any other kind, 
but they had to have natural talent for it ; it was n't a thing 
a body could learn, you had to be born with it. Let me see : 
there was Ben Thornburg, and Beck Jolly, and Squire Bell, 
and Horace Bixby, and Major Downing, and John Stevenson, 
and Billy Gordon, and Jim Brady, and George Ealer, and 
Billy Youngblood — all A 1 alligator pilots. They could tell 
alligator water as far as another Christian could tell whiskey. 
Read it ? — Ah, couldn't they, though ! I only wish I had as 
many dollars as they could read alligator water a mile and a 


half off. Yes, and it paid them to do it, too. A good 
alligator pilot could always get fifteen hundred dollars a 
month. Nights, other people had to lay up for alligators, but 
those fellows never laid up for alligators ; they never laid up 
for anything but fog. They could smell the best alligator 
water — so it was said ; I don't know whether it was so or 
not, and I think a body 's got his hands full enough if he 
sticks to just what he knows himself, without going around 
backing up other people's say-so's, though there 's a plenty 
that ain't backward about doing it, as long as they can roust 
out something wonderful to tell. Which is not the style of 
Robert Styles, by as much as three fathom — maybe quarter- 

[My ! Was this Rob Styles '( — This moustached and 
stately figure? — A slim enough cub, in my time. How he 
has improved in comeliness in five and twenty years — and 
in the noble art of inflating his facts.] After these musings, 
1 said aloud, — 

" I should think that dredging out the alligators would n't 
have done much good, because they could come back again 
right away." 

" If you had had as much experience of alligators as I 
have, you would n't talk like that. You dredge an alligator 
once and he 's convinced. It 's the last you hear of him. 
He would n't come back for pie. If there 's one thing that 
an alligator is more down on than another, it's being 
dredged. Besides, they were not simply shoved out of the 
way ; the most of the scoopful were scooped aboard ; they 
emptied them into the hold ; and when they had got a trip, 
they took them to Orleans to the Government works." 

" What for ? " 

" Why, to make soldier-shoes out of their hides. All the 
Government shoes arc made of alligator hide. It makes the 
best shoes in the world. They last five years, and they won't 
absorb water. The alligator fishery is a Government 
monopoly. All the alligators are Government property — 



just like the live-oaks. You cut down a live-oak, and Govern- 
ment fines you fifty dollars ; you kill an alligator, and up you 
go for misprision of treason — lucky duck if they don't hang 
you, too. And they will, if you 're 
a Democrat. The buzzard is the 
sacred bird of the South, and you 
can't touch him ; the alligator is 
the sacred bird of the Government, 
and you 've got to let him alone." 

" Do you ever get aground on the 
alligators now ? " 

"Oh, no ! it has n't happened 
for years." 

" Well, then, why do they still 
keep the alligator boats in ser- 
vice ? " 

"Just for police duty — nothing 
more. They merely go up and 
down now and then. The present 
generation of alligators know them 
as easy as a burglar knows a rounds- 
man ; when they see one coming, 
they break camp and go for the 

After rounding-out and finishing- 
up and polishing-off the alligator 
business, he dropped easily and 
comfortably into the historical vein, 
and told of some tremendous feats 

of half a dozen old-time steamboats of his acquaintance, dwell- 
ing at special length upon a certain extraordinary perform- 
ance of his chief favorite among this distinguished fleet — 
and then adding: — 

" That boat was the ' Cyclone,' — last trip she ever made - — 
she sunk, that very trip — captain was Tom Ballou, the most 
immortal liar that ever I struck. He could n't ever seem to 




tell the truth, in any kind of weather. Why, he would make 
you fairly shudder. He was the most scandalous liar! I 
left him, finally ; I could n't stand it. The proverb says, 
' like master, like man ; ' and if you stay with that kind of a 
man, you'll come under suspicion by and by, just as sure 
as you live,. He paid first-class wages ; but said I, What 's 


wages when your reputation 's in danger ? So I let the 
wages go, and froze to my reputation. And I 've never 
regretted it. Reputation 's worth everything, ain't it ? That 's 
the way I look at it. He had more selfish organs than any 
seven men in the world — all packed in the stern-sheets of 
his skull, of course, where they belonged. They weighed 
down the back of his head so that it made his nose tilt up 
in the air. People thought it was vanity, but it wasn't, it 


was malice. If you only saw his foot, you 'd take him to be 
nineteen feet high, Jbut he was n't ; it was because his foot 
was out of drawing. He was intended to be nineteen feet 
high, no doubt, if his foot was made first, but he did n't get 
there ; he was only five feet ten. That 's what he was, and 
that's what he is. You take the lies out of him, and he'll 
shrink to the size of your hat ; you take the malice out of 
him, and he '11 disappear. That ' Cyclone ' was a rattler to go, 
and the sweetest thing to steer that ever walked the waters. 
Set her amidships, in a big river, and just let her go ; it was 
all you had to do. She would hold herself on a star all 
night, if you let her alone. You could n't ever feel her rud- 
der. It was n't any more labor to steer her than it is to 
count the Republican vote in a South Carolina election. One 
morning, just at daybreak, the last trip she ever made, they 
took her rudder aboard to mend it ; I did n't know anything 
about it ; I backed her out from the wood-yard and went 
a-weaving down the river all serene. When I had gone 
about twenty-three miles, and made four horribly crooked 
crossings — " 

" Without any rudder ? " 

" Yes — old Capt. Tom appeared on the roof and began to 
find fault with me for running such a dark night — " 

" Such a dark night? — Why, you said — " 

"Never mind what I said, — 'twas as dark as Egypt now, 
though pretty soon the moon began to rise, and — " 

" You mean the sun — because you started out just at 
break of — look here ! Was this before you quitted the cap- 
tain on account of his lying, or — " 

" It was before — oh, a long time before. And as I was 
saying, he — " 

" But was this the trip she sunk, or was — " 

" Oh, no ! — months afterward. And so the old man, he — " 

" Then she made two last trips, because you said — " 

He stepped back from the wheel, swabbing away his per- 
spiration, and said — 



"Here!" (calling me by name), " you take her and lie a 
while — you're handier at it than 1 am. Trying to play 
yourself for a stranger and an innocent ! — why, I knew you 
before you had spoken seven words ; and I made up my 
mind to find out what was your little game. It was to draw 


me out. Well, 1 let you, did n't I ? 

Now take the wheel and finish the watch ; and next time 

play fair, and you won't have to work your passage." 

Thus ended the fictitious-name business. And not six 
hours out from St. Louis ! but I had gained a privilege, any- 
way, for I had been itching to get my hands on the wheel, 
from the beginning. I seemed to have forgotten the river, 
but I had n't forgotten how to steer a steamboat, nor how to 
enjoy it, either. 



THE scenery, from St. Louis to Cairo — two hundred 
miles — is varied and beautiful. The hills were clothed 
in the fresh foliage of spring now, and were a gracious and 

worthy setting for the 
broad river flowing be- 
tween. Our trip began aus- 
piciously, with a perfect 
day, as to breeze and sun- 
shine, and our boat threw 
the miles out behind her 
with satisfactory despatch. 
We found a railway intruding at Chester, Illinois ; Ches- : 
ter has also a penitentiary now, and is otherwise marching 




on. At Grand Tower, too, there was a railway ; and another 
at Cape Girardeau. The former town gets its name from a 
huge, squat pillar of rock, which stands up out of the water 
on the Missouri side of the river — a piece of nature's fanci- 
ful handiwork — and is one of the most picturesque features 
of the scenery of that region. For nearer or remoter neigh- 
bors, the Tower has the Devil's Bake Oven — so called, 
perhaps, because it does not powerfully resemble anybody 
else's bake oven; and the Devil's Tea Table — this latter a 
great smooth-surfaced mass of rock, with diminishing wine- 
glass stem, perched some fifty or sixty feet above the river, 
beside a beflowered and garlanded precipice, and sufficiently 
like a tea-table to answer for anybody, Devil or Christian. 
Away down the river we have the Devil's Elbow and the 
Devil's Hace-course, and lots of other property of his which 
I cannot now call to mind. 

The Town of Grand Tower was evidently a busier place 
than it had been in old times, but it seemed to need some 
repairs here and there, and a new coat of whitewash all 
over. Still, it was pleasant to me to see the old coat once 
more. " Uncle " Mumford, our second officer, said the place 
had been suffering from high water and consequently was 
not looking its best now. But he said it was not strange 
that it did n't waste whitewash on itself, for more lime was 
made there, and of a better quality, than anywhere in the 
West ; and added, — "On a dairy farm you never can get any 
milk for your coffee, nor any sugar for it on a sugar planta- 
tion ; and it is against sense to go to a lime town to hunt for 
whitewash." In my own experience I knew the first two 
items to be true ; and also that people who sell candy don't 
care for candy ; therefore there was plausibility in Uncle 
Mumford's final observation that " people who make lime 
run more to religion than whitewash." Uncle Mumford 
said, further, that Grand Tower was a great coaling centre 
and a prospering place. 

Cape Girardeau is situated on a hillside, and makes a 



handsome appearance. There is a great Jesuit school for 
boys at the foot of the town by the river. Uncle Mumford 
said it had as high a reputation for thoroughness as any 
similar institution in Missouri. There was another college 

higher up on an airy sum- 
mit, — a bright new edifice, 
picturesquely and peculiarly 
towered and pinnacled — a 
sort of gigantic casters, with 
the cruets all complete. 
Uncle Mumford said that 
Cape Girardeau was the 
Athens of Missouri, and 
contained several colleges 
besides those already men- 
tioned ; and all of them on 
a religious basis of one kind 
or another. He directed my 
attention to what he called 
the " strong and pervasive 
religious look of the town," 
but I could not see that it 
looked more religious than the 
other hill towns with the same 
.^ slope and built of the same kind of 
bricks. Partialities often make peo- 
ple see more than really exists. 

Uncle Mumford has been thirty years 
a mate on the river. He is a man of 
practical sense and a level head ; has observed ; has had 
much experience of one sort and another ; has opinions ; 
has, also, just a perceptible dash of poetry in his compo- 
sition, an easy gift of speech, a thick growl in his voice, 
and an oath or two where he can get at them when the 
exigencies of his office require a spiritual lift. He is a 
mate of the blessed old-time kind ; and goes gravely damn- 



ing around, when there is work to the fore, in a way to mel- 
low the ex-steamboatman's heart with sweet soft longings 
for the vanished days that shall come no more. " Git up, 

there, you ! Going to be all day '(. Why d'n't you say 

you was petrified in your hind legs, before you shipped ! " 

He is a steady man with his crew ; kind and just, but 
firm ; so they like him, and stay with him. He is still in 
the slouchy garb of the old generation of mates ; but next 
trip the Anchor Line will have him in uniform — a natty 
blue naval uniform, with brass buttons, along with all the 
officers of the line — and then he will be a totally different 
style of scenery from what he is now. 

Uniforms on the Mississippi ! It beats all the other changes 
put together, for surprise. Still, there is another surprise — 
that it was not made fifty years ago. It is so manifestly 
sensible, that it might have been thought of earlier, one 
would suppose. During fifty years, out there, the innocent 
passenger in need of help and information, has been mistaking 
the mate for the cook, and the captain for the barber — and 
being roughly entertained for it, too. But his troubles are 
ended now. And the greatly improved aspect of the boat's 
staff is another advantage achieved by the dress-reform 

Steered down the bend below Cape Girardeau. They used 
to call it " Steersman's Bend ; " plain sailing and plenty of 
water in it, always ; about the only place in the Upper River 
that a new cub was allowed to take a boat through, in low 

Thebes, at the head of the Grand Chain, and Commerce at 
the foot of it, were towns easily rememberable, as they had 
not undergone conspicuous alteration. Nor the Chain, either 
— in the nature of things; for it is a chain of sunken rocks 
admirably arranged to capture and kill steamboats on bad 
nights. A good many steamboat corpses lie buried there, out 
of sight ; among the rest my first friend the " Paul Jones ; " 
she knocked her bottom out, and went down like a pot, so 



the historian told me — Uncle Mumford. He said she had 
a gray mare aboard, and a preacher. To me, this sufficiently 

the disaster ; as it did, 
Mumford, who added, — 
are many ignorant 
would scoff at such 
call it superstition. But 

accounted for 
of course, to 
" But there 
people who 
a matter, and 
you will always 
that they are 
who have never 
travelled with 
a gray mare and 
a preacher. I 
went down 
the river once 
in such com- 
pany. We 
grounded at 
Bloody Is- 
lan d ; we 
at Hang- 
ing Dog; 
we grounded 
just below 
this same 
we jolted 
Beaver Dam 
Rock ; we hit 
one of the 
worst breaks 
in the ' Grave- 
yard ' behind Goose Island ; we had a roustabout killed in 
a fight ; we burnt a boiler ; broke a shaft ; collapsed a flue ; 
and wen^ into Cairo with nine feet of water in the hold — 



may have been more, may have been less. I remember it as 
if it were yesterday. The men lost their heads with terror. 
They painted the mare blue, in sight of town, and threw the 
preacher overboard, or we should not have arrived at all. 
The preacher was fished out and saved. He acknowledged, 
himself, that he had been to blame. I remember it all, as 
if it were yesterday. 1 ' 

That this combination — of preacher and gray mare — 
should breed calamity, seems strange, and at first glance 
unbelievable ; but the fact is fortified by so much unassaila- 
ble proof that to doubt is to dishonor reason. I myself 
remember a case where a captain was warned by numerous 
friends against taking a gray mare and a preacher with him, 
but persisted in his purpose in spite of all that could be said ; 
and the same day, — it may have been the next, and some 
say it was, though I think it was the same day, — he got 
drunk and fell down the hatchway and was borne to his 
home a corpse. This is literally true. 

No vestige of Hat Island is left now ; every shred of it 
is washed away. I do not even remember what part of the 
river it used to be in, except that it was between St. Louis 
and Cairo somewhere. It was a bad region — all around 
and about Hat Island, in early days. A farmer who lived 
on the Illinois shore there, said that twenty-nine steamboats 
had left their bones strung along within sight from his 
house. Between St. Louis and Cairo the steamboat wrecks 
average one to the mile ; — two hundred wrecks, altogether. 

I could recognize big changes from Commerce down. 
Beaver Dam Rock was out in the middle of the river now, 
and throwing a prodigious " break ;" it used to be close to the 
shore, and boats went down outside of it. A big island that 
used to be away out in mid-river, has retired to the Missouri 
shore, and boats do not go near it any more. The island 
called Jacket Pattern is whittled down to a wedge now, 
and is booked for early destruction. Goose Island is all 
gone but a little dab the size of a steamboat. The perilous 



" Graveyard," among whose numberless wrecks we used to 
pick our way so slowly and gingerly, is far away from the 
channel now, and a ter- 
ror to nobody. One of t J 
the i slands formerly 
called the Two Sisters 
is gone entirely ; the 
other, which used to 
lie close to the Illinois 
shore, is now on the 
Missouri side, a mile 
away ; it is joined sol- 
idly to the shore, and 
it takes a sharp eye to 
see where the seam is — 
but it is Illinois ground 
yet, and the people who 
live on it have to ferry 
themselves over and 
work the Illinois roads 
and pay Illinois taxes : 
singular state of things ! 
Near the mouth of 
the river several islands 
were missing — washed 
away. Cairo was still 
there — easily visible 
across the long, flat 
point upon whose further 
verge it stands ; but we had to steam a long way around to 
get to it. Night fell as we were going out of the " Upper 
River " and meeting the floods of the Ohio. We dashed 
along without anxiety ; for the hidden rock which used to 
lie right in the way has moved up stream a long distance 
out of the channel; or rather, about one county has gone 
into the river from the Missouri point, and the Cairo point 



has " made down " and added to its long tongue of territory 
correspondingly. The Mississippi is a just and equitable 
river ; it never tumbles one man's farm overboard without 
building a new farm just like it for that man's neighbor. 
This keeps down hard feelings. 

Going into Cairo, we came near killing a steamboat which 
paid no attention to our whistle and then tried to cross our 
bows. By doing some strong backing, we saved him ; which 
was a great loss, for he would have made good literature. 

Cairo is a brisk town now ; and is substantially built, and 
has a city look about it which is in noticeable contrast to its 
former estate, as per Mr. Dickens's portrait of it. However, 
it was already building with bricks when I had seen it last 
— which was when Colonel (now General) Grant was drill- 
ing his first command there. Uncle Mumford says the libra- 
ries and Sunday-schools have done a good work in Cairo, as 
well as the brick masons. Cairo has a heavy railroad and 
river trade, and her situation at the junction of the two 
great rivers is so advantageous that she cannot well help 

When I turned out, in the morning, we had passed Colum- 
bus, Kentucky, and were approaching Hickman, a pretty 
town, perched on a handsome hill. Hickman is in a rich 
tobacco region, and formerly enjoyed a great and lucrative 
trade in that staple, collecting it there in her warehouses 
from a large area of country and shipping it by boat ; but 
Uncle Mumford says she built a railway to facilitate this 
commerce a little morej and he thinks it facilitated it the 
wrong way — took the bulk of the trade out of her hands by 
" collaring it along the line without gathering it at her 



TALK began to run upon the war now, for we were get- 
ting down into the upper edge of the former battle- 
stretch by this time. 
Columbus was just 
behind us, so there 
was a good deal said 
about the famous 
battle of Belmont. 
S ev e r a 1 of the 
boat's officers had 
seen active service 
in the Mississippi 
war-fleet. I gath- 
ered that they 
found themselves 
sadly out of their 
element in that 
kind of business at 
first, but afterward 
got accustomed to 
it, reconciled to it, 
and more or less at 
home in it. One 
of our pilots had his 
first war experience 
in the Belmont fight, 
as a pilot on a boat 
in the Confederate service 


I had often had a curiosity to 



know how a green hand might feel, in his maiden battle, 
perched all solitary and alone on high in a pilot house, a tar- 
get for Tom, Dick and Harry, and nobody at his elbow to 

shame him from showing 
the white feather when 
matters grew hot and peril- 
ous around him ; so, to me 
liis story was valuable — it 
filled a gap for me which all 
histories had left till that 
time empty. 


He said : — 

It was the 7th of Novem- 
ber. The fight began at 
seven in the morning. I 
was on the " R. H. W. 
Hill." Took over a load 
of troops from Columbus. 
Came back, and took over 
a battery of artillery. My 
partner said he was going 
to see the fight ; wanted 
me to go along. I said, 
no, I was n't anxious, I 
would look at it from the 
pilot-house. He said I was 
a coward, and left. 

That fight was an awful 
sight. General Cheatham made his men strip their coats 
off and throw them in a pile, and said, " Now follow me to 
hell or victory ! " I heard him sa} that from the pilot-house ; 
and then he galloped in, at the head of his troops. Old 



General Pillow, with his white hair, mounted on a white 
horse, sailed in, too, leading his troops as lively as a boy. 
By and by the Federals chased the rebels back, and here 
they came ! tearing along, everybody for himself and Devil 
take the hindmost ! and down under the bank they scram- 
bled, and took shelter. I was sitting with my legs hang- 
ing out of the pilot-house window. All at once I noticed 
a whizzing sound passing my ear. Judged it was a bullet. 
I didn't stop to think about anything, I just tilted over 
backwards and landed on the floor, and staid there. The 
balls came booming around. Three cannon-balls went 
through the chimney ; one ball took off the corner of the 
pilot-house ; shells were screaming and bursting all around. 
Mighty warm times — I wished I had n't come. I lay there 
on the pilot-house floor, while the shots came faster and 
faster. I crept in behind the big stove, in the middle of 
the pilot-house. Presently a minie-ball came through the 
stove, and just grazed my head, and cut my hat. I 
judged it was time to go away from there. The captain 
was on the roof with a red-headed major from Memphis — 
a fine-looking man. I heard him say he wanted to leave 
here, but " that pilot is killed." I crept over to the star- 
board side to pull the bell to set her back ; raised up and 
took a look, and I saw about fifteen shot holes through the 
window panes ; had come so lively I had n't noticed them. 
I glanced out on the water, and the spattering shot were 
like a hail-storm. I thought best to get out of that place. 
I went down the pilot-house guy, head first — not feet first 
but head first — slid down — before I struck the deck, the 
captain said we must leave there. So I climbed up the guy 
and got on the floor again. About that time, they collared 
my partner and were bringing him up to the pilot-house 
between two soldiers. Somebody had said I was killed. 
He put his head in and saw me on the floor reaching for the 
backing bells. He said, " Oh, hell, he ain't shot," and jerked 
away from the men who had him by the collar, and ran 



below. We were there until three o'clock in the afternoon, 
and then got away all right. 

The next time I saw my partner, I said, " Now, come out, be 

honest, and tell me the truth. Where did you go when you 

went to see that battle ?" He says, " I went down in the hold." 

All through that fight I was scared nearly to death. I 

hardly knew anything, I was so frightened ; but you see, 

nobody knew that 
but me. Next day 
General Polk sent 
for me, and praised 
me for my bravery 
and gallant conduct. 
I never said any- 
thing, I let it go 
at that. I judged 
it was n't so, but 
it was not for me 
to contradict a 
general officer. 

Pretty soon af- 
ter that I was 
sick, and used up, 
and had to go 
off to the Hot 
Springs. When 
there, I got a 
good many letters 
from comman- 
ders saying they wanted me to come back. I declined, 
because I was n't well enough or strong enough ; but I 
kept still, and kept the reputation I had made. 

"where did you see that eight? 

A plain story, straightforwardly told ; but Mumford told 
me that that pilot had " gilded that scare of his, in spots ; " 
that his subsequent career in the war was proof of it. 



We struck down through the chute of Island No. 8, and I 
went below and fell into conversation with a passenger, a hand- 
some man, with easy carriage and an intelligent face. We 

were approach- 
ing Island No. 
10, a place so 
celebrated dur- 
ing the war. 


This gentleman's home was on the main shore in its neigh- 
borhood. I had some talk with him about the war times ; 
but presently the discourse fell upon "feuds," for in no part 
of the South has the vendetta flourished more briskly, or held 


out longer between warring families, than in this particular 
region. This gentleman said : — 

" There 's been more than one feud around here, in old 
times, but I reckon the worst one was between the Darnells 
and the Watsons. Nobody don't know now what the first 
quarrel was about, it 's so long ago ; the Darnells and the 
Watsons don't know, if there 's any of them living, which I 
don't think there is. Some says it was about a horse or a 
cow — anyway, it was a little matter; the money in it was n't 
of no consequence — none in the world — both families was 
rich. The thing could have been fixed up, easy enough ; 
but no, that would n't do. Rough words had been passed ; 
and so, nothing but blood could fix it up after that. That 
horse or cow, whichever it was, cost sixty years of killing 
and crippling! Every year or so somebody was shot, on 
one side or the other ; and as fast as one generation was 
laid out, their sons took up the feud and kept it a-going. 
And it 's just as I say ; they went on shooting each other, 
year in and year out — making a kind of a religion of it, 
you see — till they'd done forgot, long ago, what it was all 
about. Wherever a Darnell caught a Watson, or a Watson 
caught a Darnell, one of 'em was going to get hurt — only 
question was, which of them got the drop on the other. 
They 'd shoot one another down, right in the presence of 
the family. They did n't hunt for each other, but when 
they happened to meet, they pulled and begun. Men would 
shoot boys, boys would shoot men. A man shot a boy twelve 
years old — happened on him in the woods, and did n t give 
him no chance. If he had 'a' given him a chance, the boy 'd 
V shot him. Both families belonged to the same church 
(everybody around here is religious) ; through all this fifty 
or sixty years' fuss, both tribes was there every Sunday, to 
worship. They lived each side of the line, and the church 
was at a landing called Compromise. Half the church and 
half the aisle was in Kentucky, the other half in Tennessee. 
Sundays you 'd see the families drive up, all in their Sunday 



clothes, men, women, and children, and file up the aisle, and 
set down, quiet and orderly, one lot on the Tennessee side 
of the church and the other on the Kentucky side ; and the 
men and boys would lean their guns up against the wall, 
handy, and then all hands would join in with the prayer 
and praise ; though they say the man next the aisle did n't 
kneel down, along with the rest of the family ; kind of stood 

guard. I don't 

know; never 

was at that 

church i n 

my life ; 

but I remember 
that that 's what 
used to be said. 

" Twenty or 
twenty-five years 
igo, one of the 
feud families 
caught a young 
man of nineteen 

out and killed him. Don't remember whether it was the 
Darnells and Watsons, or one of the other feuds ; but 
anyway, this young man rode up — steamboat laying there 
at the time — and the first thing he saw was a whole gang 
of the enemy. He jumped down behind a wood-pile, but 
they rode around and begun on him, he firing back, and 



they galloping and cavorting and yelling and banging 
away with all their might. Think he wounded a couple 
of them ; but they closed in on him and chased him 
into the river ; and as lie swum along down stream, 
they followed along the bank and kept on shooting at 
him ; and when he struck shore he was dead. Windy 
Marshall told me about it. He saw it. He was captain of 
the boat. 

" Years ago, the Darnells was so thinned out that the old 
man and his two sons concluded they 'd leave the country. 
They started to take steamboat just above No. 10 ; but the 
Watsons got wind of it ; and they arrived just as the two 
young Darnells was walking up the companion-way with 
their wives on their arms. The fight begun then, and they 
never got no further — both of them killed. After that, old 
Darnell got into trouble with the man that run the ferry, 
and the ferry-man got the worst of it — and died. But his 
friends shot old Darnell through and through — filled him 
full of bullets, and ended him." 

The country gentleman who told me these things had been 
reared in ease and comfort, was a man of good parts, and 
was college bred. His loose grammar was the fruit of care- 
less habit, not ignorance. This habit among educated men 
in the West is not universal, but it is prevalent — prevalent 
in the towns, certainly, if not in the cities ; and to a degree 
which one cannot help noticing, and marvelling at. I heard 
a Westerner who would be accounted a highly educated man 
in any country, say " never mind, it don't make no difference, 
anyway." A life-long resident who was present heard it, but 
it made no impression upon her. She was able to recall the 
fact afterward, when reminded of it ; but she confessed that 
the words had not grated upon her ear at the time — a con- 
fession which suggests that if educated people can hear such 
blasphemous grammar, from such a source, and be uncon- 
scious of the deed, the crime must be tolerably common — 
so common that the general ear has become dulled by famil- 



iarity with it, and is no longer alert, no longer sensitive to 
such affronts. 

No one in the world speaks blemishless grammar ; no one 
has ever written it — wo one, either in the world or out of it 
(taking the Scriptures for evidence on the latter point) ; 
therefore it would not be fair to exact grammatical perfection 
from the peoples of the Valley ; but they and all other peo- 
ples may justly be required to refrain from knowingly and 
purposely debauching their grammar. 

I found the river greatly changed at Island No. 10. The 
island which I remembered was some three miles long and a 


quarter of a mile wide, heavily timbered, and lay near the 
Kentucky shore — within two hundred yards of it, I should 
say. Now, however, one had to hunt for it with a spy-glass. 
Nothing was left of it but an insignificant little tuft, and 
this was no longer near the Kentucky shore ; it was clear 
over against the opposite shore, a mile away. In war times 
the island had been an important place, for it commanded the 
situation ; and, being heavily fortified, there was no getting 
by it. It lay between the upper and lower divisions of the 
Union forces, and kept them separate, until a junction was 
finally effected across the Missouri neck of land ; but the 
island being itself joined to that neck now, the wide river is 
without obstruction. 




In this region the river passes from Kentucky into Ten- 
nessee, back into Missouri, then back into Kentucky, and 
thence into Tennessee again. So a mile or two of Missouri 
sticks over into Tennessee. 

The town of New Madrid was looking very unwell ; but 
otherwise unchanged from its former condition and aspect. 
Its blocks of frame-houses were still grouped in the same 
old flat plain, and environed by the same old forests. It was 
as tranquil as formerly, and apparently had neither grown 
nor diminished in size. It was said that the recent high 


water had invaded it and damaged its looks. This was sur- 
prising news ; for in low water the river bank is very high 
there (fifty feet), and in my day an overflow had always 
been considered an impossibility. This present flood of 1882 
will doubtless be celebrated in the river's history for several 
generations before a deluge of like magnitude shall be seen. 
It put all the unprotected low lands under water, from Cairo 
to the mouth ; it broke down the levees in a great many 
places, on both sides of the river ; and in some regions 
south, when the flood was at its highest, the Mississippi was 



seventy miles wide ! a number of lives were lost, and the 
destruction of property was fearful. The crops were 
destroyed, houses washed away, and shelterless men and 
cattle forced to take refuge on scattering elevations here and 
there in field and forest, and wait in peril and suffering until 
the boats put in commission by the national and local gov- 
ernments and by newspaper enterprise could come and res- 
cue them. The properties of multitudes of people were 
under water for months, and the poorer ones must have 
starved by the hundred if succor had not been promptly 
afforded. 1 The water had been falling during a considerable 
time now, yet as a rule we found the banks still under 

1 For a detailed and interesting description of the great flood, written on 
board of the New Orleans "Times-Democrat's" relief-boat, see Appendix A. 



WE met two steamboats at New Madrid. Two steam- 
boats in sight at once ! an infrequent spectacle 
now in the lonesome Mississippi. The loneliness of this 
solemn, stupendous flood is impressive — and depressing. 
League after league, and still league after league, it pours its 
chocolate tide along, between its solid forest walls, its almost 
untenanted shores, with seldom a sail or a moving object of 
any kind to disturb the surface and break the monotony of 
the blank, watery solitude ; and so the day goes, the night 
comes, and again the day — and still the same, night after 
night and day after day, — majestic, unchanging sameness of 
serenity, repose, tranquillity, lethargy, vacancy, — symbol of 
eternity, realization of* the heaven pictured by priest and 
prophet, and longed for by the good and thoughtless ! 

Immediately after the war of 1812, tourists began to come 
to America, from England ; scattering ones at first, then a 
sort of procession of them — a procession which kept up its 
plodding, patient march through the land during many, 
many years. Each tourist took notes, and went home and 
published a book — a book which was usually calm, truthful, 
reasonable, kind ; but which seemed just the reverse to our 
tender-footed progenitors. A glance at these tourist-books 
shows us that in certain of its aspects the Mississippi has 
undergone no change since those strangers visited it, but 
remains to-day about as it was then. The emotions produced 
in those foreign breasts by these aspects were not all formed 


on one pattern, of course ; they had to be various, along at 
first, because the earlier tourists were obliged to originate 
their emotions, whereas in older countries one can always 
borrow emotions from one's predecessors. And, mind you, 
emotions are among the toughest things in the world to 
manufacture out of whole cloth ; it is easier to manufacture 
seven facts than one emotion. Captain Basil Hall, R. N., 
writing fifty -live years ago, says : — 

" Here I caught the first glimpse of the object I had so long 
wished to behold, and felt myself amply repaid at that moment for 
all the trouble I had experienced in coming so far ; and stood look- 
ing at the river flowing past till it was too dark to distinguish any- 
thing-. But it was not till I had visited the 
same spot a dozen times, that I 

came to a right comprehension of ^- "v* 

the grandeur of the scene." 

"a dismal witness." 

Following are Mrs. Trollope's emotions. She is writing a 
few months later in the same year, 1827, and is coming in 
at the mouth of the Mississippi : — 

" The first indication of our approach to land was the appearance 
of this mighty river pouring forth its muddy mass of waters, and 
mingling with the deep blue of the Mexican Gulf. I never beheld 
a scene so utterly desolate as this entrance of the Mississippi. Had 
Dante seen it, he might have drawn images of another Bolgia from 


its horrors. One only object rears itself above the eddying waters ; 
this is the mast of a vessel long since wrecked in attempting to cross 
the bar, and it still stands, a dismal witness of the destruction that 
has been, and a boding prophet of that which is to come." 

Emotions of Hon. Charles Augustus Murray (near St. 
Louis), seven years later : — 

"It is only when you ascend the mighty current for fifty or a 
hundred miles, and use the eye of imagination as well as that of 
nature, that you begin to understand all his might and majesty. 
You see him fertilizing a boundless valley, bearing along in his 
course the trophies of his thousand victories over the shattered for- 
est — here carrying away large masses of soil with all their growth, 
and there forming islands, destined at some future period to be the 
residence of man ; and while indulging in this prospect, it is then 
time for reflection to suggest that the current before you has flowed 
through two or three thousand miles, and has yet to travel one 
thousand three hundred more before reaching its ocean destination." 

Receive, now, the emotions of Captain Marryat, R. N. 
author of the sea tales, writing in 1837, three years after Mr. 
Murray : — 

" Never, perhaps, in the records of nations, was there an instance 
of a century of such unvarying and unmitigated crime as is to be 
collected from the history of the turbulent and blood-stained Missis- 
sippi. The stream itself appears as if appropriate for the deeds 
which have been committed. It is not like most rivers, beautiful to 
the sight, bestowing fertility in its course ; not one that the eye 
loves to dwell upon as it sweeps along, nor can you wander upon its 
bank, or trust yourself without danger to its stream. It is a furi- 
ous, rapid, desolating torrent, loaded with alluvial soil ; and few of 
those who are received into its waters ever rise again, 1 or can sup- 
port themselves long upon its surface without assistance from some 
friendly log. It contains the coarsest and most uneatable of fish, 
such as the cat-fish and such genus, and as you descend, its banks 

1 There was a foolish superstition of some little prevalence in that day, 
that the Mississippi would neither buo}' up a swimmer, nor permit a drowned 
person's body to rise to the surface. 


are occupied with the fetid alligator, while the panther basks at its 
edge in the cane-brakes, almost impervious to man. Pouring its 
impetuous waters through wild tracks covered with trees of little 
value except for firewood, it sweeps down whole forests in its 
course, which disappear in tumultuous confusion, whirled away by 
the stream now loaded with the masses of soil which nourished their 
roots, often blocking up and changing for a time the channel of the 
river, which, as if in anger at its being opposed, inundates and dev- 
astates the whole country round; and as soon as it forces its way 
through its former channel, plants in every direction the uprooted 
monarchs of the forest (upon whose branches the bird will never 
again perch, or the raccoon, the opossum, or the squirrel climb) as 
traps to the adventurous navigators of its waters by steam, who, 
borne down upon these concealed dangers which pierce through the 
planks, very often have not time to steer for and gain the shore 
before they sink to the bottom. There are no pleasing associations 
connected with the great common sewer of the Western America, 
which pojirs out its mud into the Mexican Gulf, polluting the 
clear blue sea for many miles beyond its mouth. It is a river of 
desolation ; and instead of reminding you, like other beautiful rivers, 
of an angel which has descended for the benefit of man, you imagine 
it a devil, whose energies have been only overcome by the wonder- 
ful power of steam," 

It is pretty crude literature for a man accustomed to 
handling a pen ; still, as a panorama of the emotions sent 
weltering through this noted visitor's breast by the aspect 
and traditions of the " great common sewer," it has a value. 
A value, though marred in the matter of statistics by inac- 
curacies ; for the catfish is a plenty good enough fish for 
anybody, and there are no panthers that are " impervious to 

Later still comes Alexander Mackay, of the Middle Temple, 
Barrister at Law, with a better digestion, and no catfish dinner 
aboard, and feels as follows : — 

" The Mississippi ! It was with indescribable emotions that I first 
felt myself . afloat upon its waters. How often in my school-boy 
dreams, and in my waking visions afterwards, had my imagination 


pictured to itself the lordly stream, rolling with tumultuous current 
through the boundless region to which it has given its name, and 
gathering into itself, in its course to the ocean, the tributary waters 
of almost every latitude in the temperate zone ! Here it was then 
in its reality, and I, at length, steaming against its tide. I looked 
upon it with that reverence with which every one must regard a 
great feature of external nature." 

So much for the emotions. The tourists, one and all, 
remark upon the deep, brooding loneliness and desolation 
of the vast river. Captain Basil Hall, who saw it at flood- 
stage, says : — 

" Sometimes we passed along distances of twenty or thirty miles 
without seeing a single habitation. An artist, in search of hints 
for a painting of the deluge, would here have found them in abun- 

The first shall be last, etc. Just two hundred years ago, 
the old original first and gallantest of all the foreign tourists, 
pioneer, head of the procession, ended his weary and tedious 
discovery-voyage down the solemn stretches of the great river 
— La Salle, whose name will last as long as the river itself 
shall last. We quote from Mr. Parkman : — 

" And now they neared their journey's end. On the sixth of 
April, the river divided itself into three broad channels. La Salle 
followed that of the west, and D'Autray that of the east ; while 
Tonty took the middle passage. As he drifted down the turbid 
current, between the low and marshy shores, the brackish water 
changed to brine, and the breeze grew fresh with the salt breath 
of the sea. Then the broad bosom of the great Gulf opened on his 
sight, tossing its restless billows, limitless, voiceless, lonely as when 
born of chaos, without a sail, without a sign of life." 

Then, on a spot of solid ground, La Salle reared a column 
" hearing the arms of France ; the Frenchmen were mustered 
under arms; and while the New England Indians and their 
squaws looked on in w r ondcring silence, they chanted the Te 
Deum, the JZxaudiat, and the Domine salvumfac regem" 



Then, whilst the musketry volleyed and rejoicing shouts 
burst forth, the victorious discoverer planted the column, and 
made proclamation in a loud voice, taking formal possession 
of the river and the vast countries watered by it, in the name 
of the King. The column bore this inscription : — 


New Orleans intended to fittingly celebrate, this present 
year, the bicentennial anniversary of this illustrious event ; 
but when the time came, all her energies and surplus money 
were required in other directions, for the flood was upon the 
land then, making havoc and devastation everywhere. 



ALL day we swung along down the river, and had the 
stream almost wholly to ourselves. Formerly, at such 
a stage of the water, we should have passed acres of lumber 
rafts, and dozens of big coal barges ; also occasional little 
trading-scows, peddling along from farm to farm, with the 


pedler's family on board ; possibly, a random scow, bearing 

a humble Hamlet and Co. on an itinerant dramatic trip. 

But these were all absent. Far along in the day, we saw 

naboat ; just one, and no more. She was lying 

Jie shade, within the wooded mouth of the Obion 



River. The spy-glass revealed the fact that she was named 
for me — or he was named for me, whichever you prefer. 
As this was the first time I had ever encountered this species 
of honor, it seems excusable to mention it, and at the same 
time call the attention of the authorities to the tardiness of 
my recognition of it. 

Noted a big change in the river, at Island 21. It was a 
very large island, and used to lie out toward mid-stream ; 
but it is joined fast to the main shore now, and has retired 
from business as an island. 

As we approached famous and formidable Plum Point, 
darkness fell, but that was nothing to shudder about — in 
these modern times. For now the 
national government has turned the 
Mississippi into a sort of two-thous- 
and-mile torch-light procession. In 
the head of every crossing, and in 
the foot of every crossing, the gov- 
ernment has set up a clear-burning 
lamp. You are never entirely in 
the dark, now; there is always a 
beacon in sight, either before you, 
or behind you, or abreast. One 
might almost say that lamps have 
been squandered there. Dozens of 
crossings are lighted which were 
not shoal when they were created, 
and have never been shoal since ; 
crossings so plain, too, and also 

so straight, that a steamboat can take herself through them 
without any help, after she has been through once. Lamps 
in such places are of course not wasted ; it is much more 
convenient and comfortable for a pilot to hold on them than 
on a spread of formless blackness that won't stay still : and 
money is saved to the boat, at the same time, foi 
of course make more miles with her rudder amids 




she can with it squared across her stern and holding her 

But this thing has knocked the romance out of piloting, 
to a large extent. It and some other things together, have 
knocked all the romance out of it. For instance, the peril 
from snags" is not now what it once was. The government's 
snag-boats go patrolling up and down, in these matter-of-fact 
days, pulling the river's teeth ; they have rooted out all the 
old clusters which made many localities so formidable ; and 
they allow no new ones to collect. Formerly, if your boat 
got away from you, on a black night, and broke for the 
woods, it was an anxious time with you ; so was it also, 

when you were groping your way through solidified dark- 
ness in a narrow chute ; but all that is changed now, — you 
flash out your electric light, transform night into day in the 
twinkling of an eye, and your perils and anxieties are at an 
end. Horace Bixby and George Ritchie have charted the 
crossings and laid out the courses by compass ; they have 
invented a lamp to go with the chart, and have patented the 
whole. With these helps, one may run in the fog now, with 
considerable security, and with a confidence unknown in the 
old davs. 

Tliese abundant beacons, the banishment of snags, 
daylight in a box and ready to be turned on when- 



ever needed, and a chart and compass to fight the fog with, 
piloting, at a good stage of water, is now nearly as safe and 
simple as driving stage, and is hardly more than three times 
as romantic. 

And now in these new days, these days of infinite change, 
the Anchor Line have raised the captain above the pilot by 
giving him the bigger wages of the two. This was going 
far, but they have not stopped there. They have decreed 
that the pilot shall remain at his post, and stand his watch 
clear through, whether the boat be under way or tied up 
to the shore. We, that were once the aristocrats of the 
river, can't go to bed now, as we used to do, and sleep while 


a hundred tons of freight are lugged aboard ; no, we must 
sit in the pilot-house ; and keep awake, too. Yerily we are 
being treated like a parcel of mates and engineers. The 
Government has taken away the romance of our calling ; the 
Company has taken away its state and dignity. 

Plum Point looked as it had always looked by night, with 
the exception that now there were beacons to mark the cross- 
ings, and also a lot of other lights on the Point and along 
its shore ; these latter glinting from the fleet of the United 
States River Commission, and from a village which the offi- 
cials have built on the land for offices and for the er~ I?" 4s 
of the service. The militarv engineers of the Cor 


have taken upon their shoulders the job of making the Mis- 
sissippi over again, — a job transcended in size by only the 
original job of creating it. They are building wing-dams 
here and there, to deflect the current ; and dikes to confine 
it in narrower bounds ; and other dikes to make it stay 
there ; and for unnumbered miles along the Mississippi, they 
are felling the timber-front for fifty yards back, with the pur- 
pose of shaving the bank down to low-water mark with the 
slant of a house-roof, and ballasting it with stones ; and in 
many places they have protected the wasting shores with 
rows of piles. One who knows the Mississippi will promptly 
aver — not aloud, but to himself — that ten thousand River 
Commissions, with the mines of the world at their back, cannot 
tame that lawless stream, cannot curb it or confine it, can- 
not say to it, Go here, or Go there, and make it obey ; cannot 
save a shore which it has sentenced ; cannot bar its path 
with an obstruction which it will not tear down, dance over, 
and laugh at. But a discreet man will not put these things 
into spoken words ; for the West Point engineers have not 
their superiors anywhere ; they know all that can be known 
of their abstruse science ; and so, since they conceive that 
they can fetter and handcuff that river and boss him, it is 
but wisdom for the unscientific man to keep still, lie low, and 
wait till they do it. Captain Eads, with his jetties, has done 
a work at the mouth of the Mississippi which seemed clearly 
impossible ; so we do not feel full confidence now to prophesy 
against like impossibilities. Otherwise one would pipe out 
and say the Commission might as well bully the comets in 
their courses and undertake to make them behave, as try to 
bully the Mississippi into right and reasonable conduct. 

I consulted Uncle Mumford concerning this and cognate 
matters ; and I give here the result, stenographically 
reported, and therefore to be relied on as being full and cor- 
rect ; except that I have here and there left out remarks 
which were addressed to the men, such as " where in blazes 

'*oing with that barrel now ? " and which seemed to 



me to break the flow of the written statement, without com- 
pensating by adding to its information or its clearness. Not 
that I have ventured to strike out all such interjections ; I 
have removed only those which were obviously irrelevant ; 
wherever one occurred which I felt any question about, I 
have judged it safest to let it remain. 


Uncle Mumford said : — 

"As long as I have been mate of a steamboat, — thirty 
years — I have watched this river and studied it. Maybe I 
could have learnt more about it at West Point, but if 1 
believe it I wish I may beWHAT are you sucking your fingers 
there for ? — Collar that kag of nails ! Four years at West 
Point, and plenty of books and schooling, will learn a man a 
good deal, I reckon, but it won't learn him the river. You turn 
one of those little European rivers over to this Commission, 
with its hard bottom and clear water, and it would just be a 
holiday job for them to wall it, and pile it, and dike it, and 
tame it down, and boss it around, and make it go wherever 
they wanted it to, and stay where they put it, and do just as 
they said, every time. But this ain't that kind of a river. 
They have started in here with big confidence, and the best 
intentions in the world ; but they are going to get left. What 
does Ecclesiastes vii. 13 say ? Says enough to knock their 
little game galley-west, don't it? Now you look at their 
methods once. There at Devil's Island, in the Upper River, 
they wanted the water to go one way, the water wanted to go 
another. So they put up a stone wall. But what does the 
river care for a stone wall ? When it got ready, it just 
bulged through it. Maybe they can build another that will 
stay ; that is, up there — but not down here they can't. 
Down here in the Lower River, they drive some pegs to turn 
the water away from the shore and stop it from slicing off 
the bank ; very well, don't it go straight over and c 


body else's bank ? Certainly. Are they going to peg all the 
banks ? Why, they could buy ground and build a new Mis- 
sissippi cheaper. They are pegging Bulletin Tow-head now. 
It won't do any good. If the river has got a mortgage on 
that island, it will foreclose, sure, pegs or no pegs. Away 
down yonder, they have driven two rows of piles straight 
through the middle of a dry bar half a mile long, which is 
forty foot out of the water when the river is low. What do 
you reckon that is for ? If I know, I wish I may land in- 
HUMP yourself, you so?i of an undertaker ! — -out with thai 
coal-oil, noiv, lively, lively ! And just look at what they are 
trying to do down there at Milliken's Bend. There 's been a 
cut-off in that section, and Vicksburg is left out in the cold. 
It 's a country town now. The river strikes in below it ; and 
a boat can't go up to the town except in high water. Well, 
they are going to build wing-dams in the bend opposite the 
foot of 103, and throw the water over and cut off the foot 
of the island and plow down into an old ditch where the 
river used to be in ancient times ; and they think they can 
persuade the water around that way, and get it to strike in 
above Vicksburg, as it used to do, and fetch the town back 
into the world again. That is, they are going to take this 
whole Mississippi, and twist it around and make it run sev- 
eral miles up stream. Well, you've got to admire men that 
deal in ideas of that size and can tote them around without 
crutches ; but you have n't got to believe they can do such 
miracles, have you ? And yet you ain't absolutely obliged to 
believe they can't. I reckon the safe way, where a man can 
afford it, is to copper the operation, and at the same time 
buy enough property in Vicksburg to square you up in case 
they win. Government is doing a deal for the Mississippi, 
now — spending loads of money on her. When there used 
to be four thousand steamboats and ten thousand acres of 
coal-barges, and rafts and trading scows, there was n't a lan- 
tern from St. Paul to New Orleans, and the sna^s were thicker 
Ties on a hog's back ; and now when there 's three 



dozen steamboats and nary barge or raft, Government has 
snatched out all the snags, and lit up the shores like Broad- 
way, and a boat 's as safe on the river as she 'd be in heaven. 
And I reckon that by the time there ain't any boats left at all, 
the Commission will have the old thing all reorganized, and 
dredged out, and fenced in, and tidied up, to a degree that 
will make navigation just simply perfect, and absolutely 
safe and profitable ; and all the days will be Sundays, and all 
the mates will be Sunday-school suWHAT-in-the-nation-you- 
fooling-around-there-for, you sons of unrighteousness, heirs of 
perdition ! doing to be a year getting that hogshead ashore? " 

During our trip to New Orleans and back, we had many 
conversations with river men, planters, journalists, and offi- 
cers of the River Commission — with conflicting and confus- 
ing results. To wit : — 

1. Some believed in the Commission's scheme to arbitrarily 
and permanently confine (and thus deepen) the channel, 
preserve threatened shores, etc. 

2. Some believed that the Commission's money ought to 
be spent only on building and repairing the great system of 

3. Some believed that the higher you build your levee, 
the higher the river's bottom will rise ; and that conse- 
quently the levee system is a mistake. 

4. Some believed in the scheme to relieve the river, in 
flood-time, by turning its surplus waters off into Lake 
Borgne, etc. 

5. Some believed in the scheme of northern lake-reservoirs 
to replenish the Mississippi in low-water seasons. 

Wherever you find a man down there who believes in one 
of these theories you may turn to the next man and frame 
your talk upon the hypothesis that he does not believe in that 
theory ; and after you have had experience, you do not take 
this course doubtfully, or hesitatingly, but with the confi- 
dence of a dying murderer — converted one, I mean. For you 



will have come to know, with a deep and restful certainty, 
that you are not going to meet two people sick of the same 
theory, one right after the other. No, there will always be 


one or two witli the other diseases along between. And as 
you proceed, you will find out one or two other things. You 
will find out that there is no distemper of the lot but is con- 
tagious ; and you cannot go where it is without catching it. 
You may vaccinate yourself with deterrent facts as much as 


you please — it will do no good ; it will seem to " take," but 
it does n't ; the moment you rub against any one of those 
theorists, make up your mind that it is time to hang out 
your yellow flag. 

Yes, you are his sure victim : yet his work is not all to 
your hurt — only part of it ; for he is like your family phy- 
sician, who comes and cures the mumps, and leaves the 
scarlet-fever behind. If your man is a Lake-Borgne-relief 
theorist, for instance, he will exhale a cloud of deadly facts 
and statistics which will lay you out with that disease, sure ; 
but at the same time he will cure you of any other of the 
five theories that may have previously got into your system. 

I have had all the five ; and had them " bad ; " but ask 
me not, in mournful numbers, which one racked me hardest, 
or which one numbered the biggest sick list, for I do not 
know. In truth, no one can answer the latter question. 
Mississippi Improvement is a mighty topic, down yonder. 
Every man on the river banks, south of Cairo, talks about it 
every day, during such moments as he is able to spare from 
talking about the war ; and each of the several chief theories 
has its host of zealous partisans ; but, as I have said, it is not 
possible to determine which cause numbers the most recruits. 

All were agreed upon one point, however : if Congress 
would make a sufficient appropriation, a colossal benefit 
would result. Very well ; since then the appropriation has 
been made — possibly a sufficient one, certainly not too large 
a one. Let us hope that the prophecy will be amply ful- 

One thing will be easily granted by the reader ; that an 
opinion from Mr. Edward Atkinson, upon any vast national 
commercial matter, comes as near ranking as authority, as 
can the opinion of any individual in the Union. What he 
has to say about Mississippi River Improvement will be 
found in the Appendix. 1 

1 See Appendix B. 


Sometimes, half a dozen figures will reveal, as with a light- 
ning-flash, the importance of a subject which ten thousand 
labored words, with the same purpose in view, had left at 
last but dim and uncertain. Here is a case of the sort — 
paragraph from the " Cincinnati Commercial : " — 

" The towboat ' Jos. B. Williams ' is on her way to New Orleans 
with a tow of thirty-two barges, containing six hundred thousand 
bushels (seventy-six pounds to the bushel) of coal exclusive of her 
own fuel, being the largest tow ever taken to New Orleans or any- 
where else in the world. Her freight bill, at 3 cents a bushel, 
amounts to $18,000. It would take eighteen hundred cars, of three 

hundred and thirty-three bushels to the car, to transport this amount 
of coal. At $10 per ton, or $100 per car, which would be a fair 
price for the distance by rail, the freight bill would amount to 
$180,000, or $162,000 more by rail than by river. The tow will 
be taken from Pittsburg to New Orleans in fourteen or fifteen days. 
It would take one hundred trains of eighteen cars to the train to 
transport this one tow of six hundred thousand bushels of coal, and 
even if it made the usual speed of fast freight lines, it would take 
one whole summer to put it through by rail." 

When a river in good condition can enable one to save 
$162,000 and a whole summer's time, on a single cargo, the 
wisdom of taking measures to keep the river in good condi- 
tion is made plain to even the uncommercial mind. 



"\ T 7E passed through the Plum Point region, turned Craig- 
V * head's Point, and glided unchallenged by what was 
once the formidable Fort Pillow, memorable because of the 
massacre perpetrated there during the war. Massacres are 
sprinkled with some frequency through the histories of sev- 
eral Christian nations, but this is almost the only one that 
can be found in American history ; perhaps it is the only one 
which rises to a size correspondent to that huge and sombre 
title. We have the " Boston Massacre," where two or three 
people were killed ; but we must bunch Anglo-Saxon history 
together to find the fellow to the Fort Pillow tragedy ; and 
doubtless even then we must travel back to the days and the 
performances of Cceur de Lion, that fine " hero," before we 
accomplish it. 

More of the river's freaks. In times past, the channel 
used to strike above Island 37, by Brandywine Bar, and 
down towards Island 39. Afterward, changed its course 
and went from Brandywine down through Vogelman's chute 
in the Devil's Elbow, to Island 39 — part of this course 
reversing the old order ; the river running up four or five 
miles, instead of down, and cutting off, throughout, some 
fifteen miles of distance. This in 1876. All thai region 
is now called Centennial Island. 

There is a tradition that Island 37 was one of tlie 
principal abiding places of the once celebrated " Murel's 
Gang." This was a colossal combination of robbers, horse- 
thieves, negro-stealers, and counterfeiters, engaged in busi- 



ness along the river some fifty or sixty years ago. While 
our journey across the country towards St. Louis was in 
progress we had had no end of Jesse James and his stirring 
history ; for he had just been assassinated by an agent of 

the Governor of Mis- 
souri, and was in con- 
sequence occupying a 
good deal of space in 
the newspapers. 
Cheap histories of 
him were for sale by 
train boys. Accord- 
ing to these, he was 
the most marvellous 
creature of his kind 
that had ever existed. 
It was a mistake. 
Murel was his equal 
in boldness ; in pluck ; 
in rapacity ; in cruel- 
ty, brutality, heart- 
lessness, treachery, 
and in general and 
comprehensive vile- 
ness and shamelessness ; and very much his superior in some 
larger aspects. James was a retail rascal ; Murel, whole- 
sale. James's modest genius dreamed of no loftier flight 
than the planning of raids upon cars, coaches, and country 
banks ; Murel projected negro insurrections and the capture 
of New Orleans ; and furthermore, on occasion, this Murel 
could go into a pulpit and edify the congregation. What 
are James and his half-dozen vulgar rascals compared 
with this stately old-time criminal, with his sermons, his 
meditated insurrections and city-captures, and his ma- 
jestic following of ten hundred men, sworn to do his evil 




Here is a paragraph or two concerning this big operator, 
from a now forgotten book which was published half a cen- 
tury ago : — 

He appears to have been a most dexterous as well as consummate 
villain. When he travelled, his usual disguise was that of an itiner- 


ant preacher ; and it is said that his discourses were very " soul- 
moving " — interesting the hearers so much that they forgot to look 
after their horses, which were carried away by his confederates while 



he was preaching. But the stealing of horses in one State, and selling 
them in another, was but a small portion of their business ; the most 
lucrative was the enticing slaves to run away from their masters, 
that they might sell them in another quarter. This was arranged 
as follows ; they would tell a negro that if he would run away from 
his master, and allow them to sell him, he should receive a portion 
of the money paid for him, and that upon his return to them a 
second time they would send him to a free State, where he would 
be safe. The poor wretches complied with this request, hoping to 

obtain money and free- 
dom ; they would be 
sold to another master, 
and run away again to 
their employers ; some- 
times they would be 
sold in this manner 
three or four times, un- 
til they had realized 
three or four thousand 
dollars by them ; but as, 
after this, there was 
fear of detection, the 
usual custom was to get 
rid of the only witness 
that could be produced 
against them, which was 
the negro himself, by 
murdering him, and 
throwing his body into 
the Mississippi. Even 
if it was established that 
they had stolen a negro, 
before he was murdered, 
they were always prepared to evade punishment; for they con- 
cealed the negro who had run away, until he was advertised, 
and a reward offered to any man who would catch him. An adver- 
tisement of this kind warrants the person to take the property, if 
found. And then the negro becomes a property in trust, when, 



therefore, they sold the negro, it only became a breach of trust, 
not stealing ; and for a breach of trust, the owner of the property 
can only have redress by a civil action, which was useless, as the 
damages were never paid. It may be inquired, how it was that 
Murel escaped Lynch law under such circumstances ? This will be 
easily understood when it is stated that he had more than a thou- 
sand sworn confederates, all ready at a moment's notice to support 
any of the gang who might be in trouble. The names of all the 
principal confederates of Murel were obtained from himself, in a 
manner which I shall presently explain. The gang was composed 
of two classes : the Heads or Council, as they were called, who 
planned and concerted, but seldom acted ; they amounted to about 
four hundred. The other class were the active agents, and were 
termed strikers, and amounted to about six hundred and fifty. 
These were the tools in the hands of the others ; they ran all the 
risk, and received but a small portion of the money ; they were in 
the power of the leaders of the gang, who would sacrifice them at 
any time by handing them over to justice, or sinking their bodies in 
the Mississippi. The general rendezvous of this gang of miscreants 
was on the Arkansas side of the river, where they concealed their 
negroes in the morasses and cane-brakes. 

The depredations of this extensive combination were severely 
felt ; but so well were their plans arranged, that although Murel, 
who was always active, was everywhere suspected, there was no 
proof to be obtained. It so happened, however, that a young man 
of the name of Stewart, who was looking after two slaves which 
Murel had decoyed away, fell in with him and obtained his confi- 
dence, took the oath, and was admitted into the gang as one of 
the General Council. By this means all was discovered ; for Stew- 
art turned traitor, although he had taken the oath, and having 
obtained every information, exposed the whole concern, the names 
of all the parties, and finally succeeded in bringing home sufficient 
evidence against Murel, to procure his conviction and sentence to 
the Penitentiary (Murel was sentenced to fourteen years' imprison- 
ment) ; so many people who were supposed to be honest, and bore a 
respectable name in the different States, were found to be among the 
list of the Grand Council as published by Stewart, that every attempt 
was made to throw discredit upon his assertions — his character 



was vilified, and more than one attempt was made to assassinate 
him. He was obliged to quit the Southern States in consequence. It 
is, however, now well ascertained to have been all true ; and although 
some blame Mr. Stewart for having violated his oath, they no longer 
attempt to deny that his revelations were correct. I will quote 
one or two portions of Murel's confessions to Mr. Stewart, made 
to him when they were journeying together. I ought to have 

observed, that the ul- 
timate intentions of 
Murel and his asso- 
ciates were, by his 
own account, on a 
very extended scale ; 
having no less an ob- 
ject in view than 
raising the blacks 
against the whites, 
taking possession of, 
and plundering New 
Orleans, and making 
themselves possessors 
of the territory. The 
following are a few 
extracts : — 

"I collected all 
my friends about 
New Orleans at one 
of our friends' hous- 
es in that place, and 
we sat in council 
three days before we 
got all our plans to our notion ; we then determined to undertake 
the rebellion at every hazard, and make as many friends as we could 
for that purpose. Every man's business being assigned him, I 
started to Natchez on foot, having sold my horse in New Orleans, 
— with the intention of stealing another after I started. I walked 
four days, and no opportunity offered for me to get a horse. The 
fifth day, about twelve, I had become tired, and stopped at a creek 




to get some water and rest a little. While I was sitting on a log, 

looking down the road the way that I had come, a man came in 

sight riding on a good-looking horse. The very moment I saw him, 

I was determined to 

have his horse, if he 

was in the garb of 

a travel ler. He 

rode up, and I saw 

from his equipage 

that he was a trav- 

' i J j: 


eller. I arose and drew an elegant rifle pistol on him and ordered 
him to dismount. He did so, and I took his horse by the bridle 
and pointed down the creek, and ordered him to walk before me. 
He went a few hundred yards and stopped. I hitched his horse, 
and then made him undress himself, all to his shirt and drawers, 


and ordered him to turn his back to me. He said, ' If you are deter- 
mined to kill me, let me have time to pray before I die.' I told 
him I had no time to hear him pray. He turned around and 
dropped on his knees, and I shot him through the back of the 
head. I ripped open his belly and took out his entrails, and sunk 
him in the creek. I then searched his pockets, and found four hun- 
dred dollars and thirty seven cents, and a number of papers that 
I did not take time to examine. I sunk the pocket-book and 
papers and his hat, in the creek. His boots were bran-new, and 
fitted me genteelly ; and I put them on and sunk my old shoes in the 
creek, to atone for them. I rolled up his clothes and put them 
into his portmanteau, as they were bran-new cloth of the best 
quality. I mounted as fine a horse as ever I straddled, and 
directed my course for Natchez in much better style than I had 
been for the last five days. 

" Myself and a fellow by the name of Crenshaw gathered four 
good horses and started for Georgia. We got in company with a 
young South Carolinian just before we got to Cumberland Moun- 
tain, and Crenshaw soon knew all about his business. He had been 
to Tennessee to buy a drove of hogs, but when he got there pork 
was dearer than he calculated, and he declined purchasing. We 
concluded he was a prize. Crenshaw winked at me ; I understood 
his idea. Crenshaw had travelled the road before, but I never had ; 
we had travelled several miles on the mountain, when he passed near 
a great precipice ; just before we passed it Crenshaw asked me for 
my whip, which had a pound of lead in the butt ; I handed it to him, 
and he rode up by the side of the South Carolinian, and gave him a 
blow on the side of the head and tumbled him from his horse ; we 
lit from our horses and fingered his pockets ; we got twelve hundred 
and sixty-two dollars. Crenshaw said he knew a place to hide him, 
and he gathered him under his arms, and I by his feet, and con- 
veyed him to a deep crevice in the brow of the precipice, and 
tumbled him into it, and he went out of sight ; we then tumbled 
in his saddle, and took his horse with us, which was worth two hun- 
dred dollars. 

" We were detained a few days, and during that time our friend 
went to a little village in the neighborhood and saw the negro 
advertised (a negro in our possession), and a description of the 



two men of whom he had been purchased, and giving his sus- 
picions of the men. It was rather squally times, but any port in 

a storm : we took 
the negro that night 
on the bank of 
a creek which runs 
by the farm of 
our friend, and 
Crenshaw shot him 


through the head. We took out his entrails and sunk him in the 

" He had sold the other negro the third time on Arkansaw River 
for upwards of five hundred dollars ; and then stole him and deliv- 



ered him into the hand of his friend, who conducted him to a swamp, 
and veiled the tragic scene, and got the last gleanings and sacred 
pledge of secrecy ; as a game of that kind will not do unless it ends 
in a mystery to all but the fraternity. He sold the negro, first and 

last, for nearly 
f ( , two thousand dol- 

lars, and the n 
put him forever 
out of the reacli 
of all pursuers ; 
and they can 
never graze him 
unless they can 
find the negro ; 
and that they 
cannot do, for his 
carcass has fed 
many a tortoise 
and catfish before 
this time, and the 
frogs have sung 
this many a long 
day to the silent 
repose of his 

We were ap- 

Memphis, in 
front of which 
city, and wit- 
nessed by its 
people, was 
fought the 
most famous of 
the river battles of the Civil War. Two men whom I had 
served under, in my river days, took part in that fight : Mr. 
Bixby, head pilot of the Union fleet, and Montgomery, Com- 



modore of the Confederate fleet. Both saw a great deal of 
active service during the war, and achieved high reputations 
for pluck and capacity. 

As we neared Memphis, we began to cast about for an 
excuse to stay with the " Gold Dust " to the end of her 
course — Vicksburg. We were so pleasantly situated, that 
we did not wish to make a change. I had an errand of 
considerable importance to do at Napoleon, Arkansas, but 
perhaps I could manage it without quitting the " Gold Dust." 
I said as much ; so we decided to stick to present quarters. 

The boat was to tarry at Memphis till ten the next morn- 
ing. It is a beautiful city, nobly situated on a commanding 
bluff overlooking the river. The streets are straight and 
spacious, though not paved in a way to incite distempered 
admiration. No, the admiration must be reserved for the 
town's sewerage system, which is called perfect ; a recent 
reform, however, for it was just the other way, up to a few 
years ago — a reform resulting from the lesson taught by a 
desolating visitation of the yellow-fever. In those awful 
days the people were swept off by hundreds, by thousands ; 
and so great was the reduction caused by flight and by death 
together, that the population was diminished three-fourths, 
and so remained for a time. Business stood nearly still, and 
the streets bore an empty Sunday aspect. 

Here is a picture of Memphis, at that disastrous time, 
drawn by a German tourist who seems to have been an eye- 
witness of the scenes which he describes. It is from Chapter 
VII., of his book, just published, in Leipzig, " Mississippi- 
Fahrten, von Ernst von Hesse-Wartegg :" — 

" In August the yellow-fever had reached its extremest height. 
Daily, hundreds fell a sacrifice to the terrible epidemic. The city 
was become a mighty graveyard, two-thirds of the population had 
deserted the place, and only the poor, the aged and the sick, 
remained behind, a sure prey for the insidious enemy. The houses 
were closed : little lamps burned in front of many — a sign that here 
death had entered. Often, several lay dead in a single house ; 




from the windows hung black crape. The stores were shut up, for 
their owners were gone away or dead. 

" Fearful evil ! In the briefest space it struck down and swept 
away even the most vigorous victim. A slight indisposition, then 
an hour of fever, then the hideous delirium, then — the Yellow 
Death ! On the street corners, and in the squares, lay sick men, 
suddenly overtaken by the disease ; and even corpses, distorted and 
rigid. Food failed. Meat spoiled in a few hours in the fetid 
and pestiferous air, and turned black. 

" Fearful clamors issue from many houses ; then after a season 
they cease, and all is still : noble, self-sacrificing men come with the 


coffin, nail it 
up, and carry 
it away, to 
the graveyard. In 
the night stillness 
reigns. Only the 
physicians and the hearses hurry through the streets ; and out of 
the distance, at intervals, comes the muffled thunder of the railway 
train, which with the speed of the wind, and as if hunted by furies, 
flies by the pest-ridden city without halting." 


But there is life enough there now. The population 
exceeds forty thousand and is augmenting, and trade is in a 
flourishing condition. We drove about the city ; visited the 
park and the sociable horde of squirrels there ; saw the 
fine residences, rose-clad and in other ways enticing to 
the eye ; and got a good breakfast at the hotel. 

A thriving place is the Good Samaritan City of the 
Mississippi : has a- great wholesale jobbing trade ; foundries, 
machine shops ; and manufactories of wagons, carriages, 
and cotton-seed oil ; and is shortly to have cotton mills and 

Her cotton receipts reached five hundred thousand bales 
last ye&r — an increase of sixty thousand over the year 
before. Out from her healthy commercial heart issue five 
trunk lines of railway ; and a sixth is being added. 

This is a very different Memphis from the one which the 
vanished and unremembered procession of foreign tourists 
used to put into their books long time ago. In the days of 
the now forgotten but once renowned and vigorously hated 
Mrs. Trollope, Memphis seems to have consisted mainly of 
one long street of log-houses, with some outlying cabins 
sprinkled around rearward toward the woods ; and now and 
then a pig, and no end of mud. That was fifty-five years 
ago. She stopped at the hotel. Plainly it was not the one 
which gave us our breakfast. She says : — 

" The table was laid for fifty persons, and was nearly full. 
They ate in perfect silence, and with such astonishing rapidity that 
their dinner was over literally before ours was begun ; the only 
sounds heard were those produced by the knives and forks, with the 
unceasing chorus of coughing, etc." 

" Coughing, etc." The " etc. " stands for an unpleasant 
word there, a word which she does not always charitably 
cover up, but sometimes prints. You will find it in the 
following description of a steamboat dinner which she ate in 
company with a l©t of aristocratic planters ; wealthy, well- 



born, ignorant swells they were, tinselled with the usual 
harmless military and judicial titles of that old day of cheap 
shams and windy pretence : ' — 

" The total want of all the usual courtesies of the table ; the 
voracious rapidity with which the viands were seized and devoured ; 


the strange 
phrases and 
ation ; the 
from the contamination of which it was 
absolutely impossible to protect our dresses ; the 
frightful manner of feeding with their knives, till 
the whole blade seemed to enter into the mouth ; and the still more 
frightful manner of cleaning the teeth afterward with a pocket 
knife, soon forced us to feel that we were not surrounded by the 
generals, colonels, and majors of the old world ; and that the dinner 
hour was to be anything rather than an hour of enjoyment." 



T T was a big river, below Memphis ; banks brimming full, 
1 everywhere, and very frequently more than full, the 
waters pouring out over the land, flooding the woods and 
fields for miles into the interior ; and in places, to a depth of 
fifteen feet ; signs, all about, of men's hard work gone to ruin, 
and all to be 
done over 
again, with 
means and a 
courage. A 
picture, and 
a continuous 
one ; — hun- 
dreds of miles 
of it. Some- 
times the bea- 
con lights 
stood in wa- 
ter three feet deep, in the edge of dense forests which 
extended for miles without farm, wood-yard, clearing, or 
break of any kind; which meant that the keeper of the 
light must come in a skiff a great distance to discharge his 
trust, — and often in desperate weather. Yet I was told that 
the work is faithfully performed, in all weathers ; and not 



always by men, sometimes by women, if the man is sick or 
absent. The Government furnishes oil, and pays ten or 
fifteen dollars a month for the lighting and tending. A 
Government boat distributes oil and pays wages once a 

The Ship Island region was as woodsy and tenantless as 
ever. The island has ceased to be an island ; has joined 
itself compactly to the main shore, and wagons travel, now, 
where the steamboats used to navigate. No signs left of the 
wreck of the " Pennsylvania." Some farmer will turn up her 
bones with his plow one day, no doubt, and be surprised. 

We were getting down now into the migrating negro 
region. These poor people could never travel when they 
were slaves ; so they make up for the privation now. They 
stay on a plantation till the desire to travel seizes them ; then 
they pack up, hail a steamboat, and clear out. Not for any 
particular place ; no, nearly any place will answer ; they only 
want to be moving. The amount of money on hand will 
answer the rest of the conundrum for them. If it will take 
them fifty miles, very well ; let it be fifty. If not, a shorter 
flight will do. 

During a couple of days, we frequently answered these 
hails. Sometimes there was a group of high-water-stained, 
tumble-down cabins, populous with colored folk, and no 
whites visible ; with grassless patches of dry ground here and 
there ; a few felled trees, with skeleton cattle, mules, and 
horses, eating the leaves and gnawing the bark — no other 
food for them in the flood-wasted land. Sometimes there 
was a single lonely landing-cabin ; near it the colored family 
that had hailed us ; little and big, old and young, roosting on 
the scant pile of household goods ; these consisting of a rusty 
gun, some bedticks, chests, tinware, stools, a crippled looking- 
glass, a venerable arm-chair, and six or eight base-born and 
spiritless yellow curs, attached to the family by strings. 
They must have their dogs ; can't go without their dogs. 
Yet the dogs are never willing ; they always object ; so, one 



after another, in ridiculous procession, they are dragged 
aboard ; all four feet braced and sliding along the stage, head 
likely to be pulled off ; but the tugger marching determinedly 
forward, bending to his work, with the rope over his shoulder 
for better purchase. Sometimes a child is forgotten and 
left on the bank ; but never a dog. 

The usual river-gossip going on in the pilot-house. Island 
No. 63 — an island with a lovely "chute," or passage, 

behind it in the former 
"^ times. They said Jesse 
Jamieson, in the " Sky- 
lark," had a visiting pilot 
with him one trip — a 


poor old broken-down, superannuated fellow — left him at 
the wheel, at the foot of 63, to run off the watch. The 
ancient mariner went up through the chute, and down 
the river outside ; and up the chute and down the river 



again ; and yet again and again ; and handed the boat over 
to the relieving pilot, at the end of three hours of honest 
endeavor, at the same old foot of the island where he had 
originally taken the wheel ! A darkey on shore who had 
observed the boat go by, about thirteen times, said, " 'clar to 
gracious, I would n't be s'prised if dey 's a whole line o' dem 
Sk'ylarks ! " 

Anecdote illustrative of influence of reputation in the 
changing of opinion. The " Eclipse " was renowned for her 
swiftness. One day she passed along ; an old darkey on shore, 

absorbed in his 
own matters, did 
not notice what 
steamer it was. 
Presently some 
one asked : — 
"Any boat gone 




" Yes, sah." 
" Was she go- 
ing fast ? " 

" Oh, so-so — 
loafin' along." 

" Now, do you 
know what boat 
that was ? " 
" No, sah." 
" Why, uncle, 
that was the 
' Eclipse.' " 
Is dat so? Well, I bet it was — cause she jes' 
went by here a,-sparJcUn , . n '' 

Piece of history illustrative of the violent style of some of 
the people down along here. During the early weeks of high 
water, A's fence rails washed down on B's ground, and B's 
rails washed up in the eddy and landed on A's ground. A said, 

"any boat gone up?" 



" Let the thing remain so ; I will use your rails, and you 
use mine." But B objected — wouldn't have it so. One 
day, A came down on B's ground to get his rails. B said. 
*' I '11 kill you ! " and proceeded for him with his revolver. 
A said, " I 'm not armed." So B, who wished to do only 
what was right, threw down his revolver ; then pulled a knife, 
and cut A's throat all around, but gave his principal attention 
to the front, and so failed to sever the jugular. Struggling 
around, A managed to get his hands on the discarded 
revolver, and shot B dead with it — and recovered from his 
own injuries. 

Further gossip; — after which, everybody went below to 
get afternoon coffee, and left me at the wheel, alone. Some- 
thing presently reminded me of our last hour in St. Louis, 
part of which I spent on this boat's hurricane deck, aft. I 
was joined there by a stranger, who dropped into conversation 
with me — a brisk young fellow, who said he was born in a 
town in the interior of Wisconsin, and had never seen a 
steamboat until a week before. Also said that on the way 
down from La Crosse he had inspected and examined his boat 
so diligently and with such passionate interest that he had 
mastered the whole thing from stem to rudder-blade. Asked 
me where I was from. I answered, New England. " Oh, a 
Yank ! " said he ; and went chatting straight along, without 
waiting for assent or denial. He immediately proposed to 
take me all over the boat and tell me the names of her 
different parts, and teach me their uses. Before I could 
enter protest or excuse, he was already rattling glibly away 
at his benevolent work ; and when I perceived that he was 
misnaming the things, and inhospitably amusing himself at 
the expense of an innocent stranger from a far country, I 
held my peace, and let him have his way. He gave me a 
world of misinformation ; and the further he went, the wider 
his imagination expanded, and the more he enjoyed his cruel 
work of deceit. Sometimes, after palming off a particularly 
fantastic and outrageous lie upon me, he was so " full of 



laugh" that he had to step aside for a minute, upon one 
pretext or another, to keep me from suspecting. I staid 
faithfully by him until his comedy was finished. Then he 
remarked that he had undertaken to " learn " me all about a 
steamboat, and had done it ; but that if he had overlooked 

anything, just ask 
him and he would 
supply the lack. 
" Anything about 
this boat that you 
don't know the 
name of or the 
purpose of, you 
come to me and I '11 
tell you." I said 
I would, and took 
my departure ; dis- 
appeared, and ap- 
proached him from 
another quarter, 
whence he could 
not see me. There 
he sat, all alone, 
doubling himself 
up and writhing 
this way and that, 
in the throes of un- 
appeasable laugh- 
ter. He must have 
made himself sick ; 
for he was not 
publicly visible af- 
Meantime, the episode dropped 


terward for several days, 
out of my mind. 

The thing that reminded me of it now, when I was alone 
at the wheel, was the spectacle of this young fellow standing 


in the pilot-house door, with the knob in his hand, silently 
and severely inspecting me. I don't know when I have seen 
anybody look so injured as he did. He did not say anything 
— simply stood there and looked ; reproachfully looked and 
pondered. Finally he shut the door, and started away ; 
halted on the texas a minute ; came slowly back and stood 
in the door again, with that grieved look in his face ; gazed 
upon me a while in meek rebuke, then said : — 

" You let me learn you all about a steamboat, did n't you?" 

" Yes," I confessed. 

" Yes, you did — did nH you ? " 

" Yes." 

" You are the feller that — that — " 

Language failed. Pause — impotent struggle for further 
words — then he gave it up, choked out a deep, strong oath, 
and departed for good. Afterward I saw him several times 
below during the trip ; but he was cold — would not look at 
me. Idiot, if he had not been in such a sweat to play his 
witless practical joke upon me, in the beginning, I would have 
persuaded his thoughts into some other direction, and saved 
him from committing that wanton and silly impoliteness. 

1 had myself called with the four o'clock watch, mornings, 
for one cannot see too many summer sunrises on the Missis- 
sippi. They are enchanting. First, there is the eloquence 
of silence ; for a deep hush broods everywhere. Next, there 
is the haunting sense of loneliness, isolation, remoteness 
from the worry and bustle of the world. The dawn creeps 
in stealthily ; the solid walls of black forest soften to gray, 
and vast stretches of the river open up and reveal them- 
selves ; the water is glass-smooth, gives off spectral little 
wreaths of white mist, there is not the faintest breath of 
wind, nor stir of leaf ; the tranquillity is profound and infi- 
nitely satisfying. Then a bird pipes up, another follows, 
and soon the pipings develop into a jubilant riot of music. 
You see none of the birds ; you simply move through an 
atmosphere of song which seems to sing itself. When the 



light has become a little stronger, you have one of the fairest 
and softest pictures imaginable. You have the intense green 
of the massed and crowded foliage near by ; you see it paling 
shade by shade in front of you ; upon the next projecting 
cape, a mile off or more, the tint has lightened to the tender 
young green of spring ; the cape beyond that one has almost 
lost color, and the furthest one, miles away under the hori- 
zon, sleeps upon the 
water a mere dim 
vapor, and hardly sep- 
arable from the sky 
above it and about it. 
And all this stretch of 
river is a mirror, and 
you have the shadowy 
reflections of the leaf- 
age and the curving 
shores and the reced- 
ing capes pictured in 
it. Well, that is all 
beautiful ; soft and 
rich and beautiful ; and 
when the sun gets well 
up, and distributes a 
pink flush here and a 
powder of gold yonder 
and a purple haze where it will yield the best effect, you grant 
that you have seen something that is worth remembering. 

We had the Kentucky Bend country in the early morning 
— scene of a strange and tragic accident in the old times. 
Captain Poe had a small stern-wheel boat, for years the home 
of himself and his wife. One night the boat struck a snag 
in the head of Kentucky Bend, and sank with astonishing 
suddenness ; water already well above the cabin floor when 
the captain got aft. So he cut into his wife's stateroom from 
above with an axe ; she was asleep in the upper berth, the 




roof a flimsier one than was supposed ; the first blow crashed 
down through the rotten boards and clove her skull. 

This bend is all filled up now — result of a cut-off ; and 
the same agent has taken the great and once much-frequented 
Walnut Bend, and set it away back in a solitude far from 
the accustomed track of passing steamers. 

Helena we visited, and also a town I had not heard of 
before, it being of recent birth — Arkansas City. It was 
born of a railway ; the Little Rock, Mississippi River and 
Texas Railroad touches the river there. We asked a pas- 
senger who belonged there what sort of a place it was. 
" Well," said he, after considering, and with the air of one 
who wishes to take time and be accurate, " It 's a hell of a 
place." A description which was photographic for exactness. 
There were several rows and clusters of shabby frame-houses, 
and a supply of mud sufficient to insure the town against a 
famine in that article for a hundred years ; for the overflow 
had but lately subsided. There were stagnant ponds in the 
streets, here and there, and a dozen rude scows were scat- 
tered about, lying aground wherever they happened to have 
been when the waters drained off and people could do 
their visiting and shopping on foot once more. Still, it is a 
thriving place, with a rich country behind it, an elevator 
in front of it, and also a fine big mill for the manufacture of 
cotton-seed oil. I had never seen this kind of a mill before. 

Cotton-seed was comparatively valueless in my time ; but 
it is worth $12 or $13 a ton now, and none of it is thrown 
away. The oil made from it is colorless, tasteless, and 
almost if not entirely odorless. It is claimed that it can, 
by proper manipulation, be made to resemble and perform 
the office of any and all oils, and be produced at a cheaper 
rate than the cheapest of the originals. Sagacious people 
shipped it to Italy, doctored it, labelled it, and brought it 
back as olive oil. This trade grew to be so formidable that 
Italy was obliged to put a prohibitory impost upon it to keep 
it from working serious injury to her oil industry. 


Helena occupies one of the prettiest situations on the 
Mississippi. Her perch is the last, the southernmost group 
of hills which one sees on that side of the river. In its 
normal condition it is a pretty town; but the flood (or 
possibly the seepage) had lately been ravaging it ; whole 
streets of houses had been invaded by the muddy water, and 
the outsides of the buildings were still belted with a broad 
stain extending upwards from the foundations. Stranded 
and discarded scows lay all about ; plank sidewalks on stilts 
four feet high were still standing ; the board sidewalks on 
the ground level were loose and ruinous, — a couple of men 
trotting along them could make a blind man think a cavalry 
charge was coming ; everywhere the mud was black and 
deep, and in many places malarious pools of stagnant water 
were standing. A Mississippi inundation is the next most 
wasting and desolating infliction to a fire. 

We had an enjoyable time here, on this sunny Sunday : 
two full hours' liberty ashore while the boat discharged 
freight. In the back streets but few white people were 
visible, but there were plenty of colored folk — mainly women 
and girls ; and almost without exception upholstered in bright 
new clothes of swell and elaborate style and cut — a glaring 
and hilarious contrast to the mournful mud and the pensive 

Helena is the second town in Arkansas, in point of popu- 
lation — which is placed at five thousand. The country about 
it is exceptionally productive. Helena has a good cotton 
trade ; handles from forty to sixty thousand bales annually ; 
she has a large lumber and grain commerce ; has a foundry, 
oil mills, machine shops and wagon factories — in brief has 
$1,000,000 invested in manufacturing industries. She has 
two railways, and is the commercial centre of a broad and 
prosperous region. Her gross receipts of money, annually, 
from all sources, are placed by the New Orleans " Times- 
Democrat " at $4,000,000. 



WE were approaching Napoleon, Arkansas. So I began 
to think about my errand there. Time, noonday ; 
and bright and sunny. This was bad — not best, anyway ; 
for mine was not (preferably) a noonday kind of errand. 
The more I thought, the more that fact pushed itself upon 


me — now in one form, now in another. Finally, it took the 
form of a distinct question : is it good common sense to do 
the errand in daytime, when, by a little sacrifice of comfort 
and inclination, you can have night for it, and no inquisitive 
eyes around ? This settled it. Plain question and plain 
answer make the shortest road out of most perplexities. 

I got my friends Into my stateroom, and said I was sorry 
to create annoyance <and disappointment, but that upon 
reflection it reallv seei?^d best that we put our luggage ashore 
* 22 


and stop over at Napoleon. Their disapproval was prompt 
and loud ; their language mutinous. Their main argument 
was one which has always been the first to come to the 
surface, in such cases, since the beginning of time : " But 
you decided and agreed to stick to this boat, etc. ; " as if, 
having determined to do an unwise thing, one is thereby 
bound to go ahead and make two unwise things of it, by 
carrying out that determination. 

I tried various mollifying tactics upon them, with reason- 
ably good success : under which encouragement, I increased 
my efforts; and, to show them that /had not created this 
annoying errand, and was in no way to blame for it, I 
presently drifted into its history — substantially as follows : 

Toward the end of last year, I spent a few months in 
Munich, Bavaria. In November I was living in Fraulein 
Dahlweiner's pension, la, Karlstrasse ; but my working 
quarters were a mile from there, in the house of a widow 
who supported herself by taking lodgers. She and her two 
young children used to drop in every morning and talk 
German to me — by request. One day, during a ramble 
about the city, I visited one of the two establishments where 
the Government keeps and watches corpses until the doctors 
decide that they are permanently dead, and not in a trance 
state. It was a grisly place, that spacious room. There 
were thirty-six corpses of adults in sight, stretched on their 
backs on slightly slanted boards, in three long rows — all 
of them with wax-white, rigid faces, and all of them wrapped 
in white shrouds. Along the sides of the room were deep 
alcoves, like bay windows ; and in each of these lay several 
marble-visaged babes, utterly hidden and buried under banks 
of fresh flowers, all but their faces and crossed hands. 
Around a finger of each of these fiftv still forms, both 
great and small, was a ring ; and from the ring a wire 
led to the ceiling, and thence to a \e\\ in a watch-room 
yonder, where, day and night, a watchman sits always alert 
and ready to spring to the aid of an;/ of that pallid company 


who, waking out of death, shall make a movement — for any 
even the slightest movement will twitch the wire and ring 
that fearful bell. I imagined myself a death-sentinel 
drowsing there alone, far in the dragging watches of some 
wailing, gusty night, and having in a twinkling all my body 
stricken to quivering jelly by the sudden clamor of that 
awful summons ! So I inquired about this thing ; asked 
what resulted usually ? if the watchman died, and the 
restored corpse came and did what it could to make his last 
moments easy ? But I was rebuked for trying to feed an 
idle and frivolous curiosity in so solemn and so mournful a 
place ; and went my way with a humbled crest. 

Next morning I was telling the widow my adventure, when 
she exclaimed — 

" Come with me ! I have a lodger who shall tell you all 
you want to know. He has been a night watchman there." 

He was a living man, but he did not look it. He was abed, 
and had his head propped high on pillows ; his face was 
wasted and colorless, his deep-sunken eyes were shut ; his 
hand, lying on his breast, was talon-like, it was so bony and 
long-fingered. The widow began her introduction of me. 
The man's eyes opened slowly, and glittered wickedly out 
from the twilight of their caverns ; he frowned a black frown ; 
he lifted his lean hand and waved us peremptorily away. 
But the widow kept straight on, till she had got out the fact 
that I was a stranger and an American. The man's face 
changed at once ; brightened, became even eager — and the 
next moment he and I were alone together. 

I opened up in cast-iron German ; he responded in quite 
flexible English ; thereafter we gave the German language 
a permanent rest. 

This consumptive and I became good friends. I visited 
him every day, and we talked about everything. At least, 
about everything but wives and children. Let anybody's 
wife or anybody's child be mentioned, and three things 
always followed : the most gracious and loving and tender 



light glimmered in the man's eyes for a moment ; faded out 
the next, and in its place came that deadly look which had 
flamed there the first time I ever saw his lids unclose • 
thirdly, he ceased from speech, there and then for that day • 
lay silent, abstracted, and absorbed; apparently heard 
nothing that I said ; took no notice of my good-byes, and 


plainly did not know, by either sight or hearing, when I left 
the room. 

When I had been this Karl Ritter's daily and sole inti- 
mate during two months, he one day said, abruptly, — 

" I will tell you my story." 


Then he went on as follows : — 

I have never given up, until now. But now I have given 
up. I am going to die. I made up my mind last night 


that it must be, and very soon, too. You say you are going 
to revisit your river, by and by, when you find opportunity. 
Very well ; that, together with a certain strange experience 
which fell to my lot last night, determines me to tell you 
my history — for you will see Napoleon, Arkansas ; and for 
my sake you will stop there, and do a certain thing for me 
— a thing which you will willingly undertake after you shall 
have heard my narrative. 

Let us shorten the story wherever we can, for it will need it, 
being long. You already know how I came to go to America, 
and how I came to settle in that lonely region in the South. 
But you do not know that I had a wife. My wife was young, 
beautiful, loving, and oh, so divinely good and blameless and 
gentle ! And our little girl was her mother in miniature. 
It was the happiest of happy households. 

One night — it was toward the close of the war — I woke 
up out of a sodden lethargy, and found myself bound and 
gagged, and the air tainted with chloroform ! I saw two 
men in the room, and one was saying to the other, in a hoarse 
whisper, " I told her I would, if she made a noise, and as for 
the child — " 

The other man interrupted in a low, half-crying voice — 

" You said we 'd only gag them and rob them, not hurt 
them ; or I would n't have come.'" 

" Shut up your whining ; had to change the plan when 
they waked up ; you done all you could to protect them, now 
let that satisfy you ; come, help rummage." 

Both men were masked, and wore coarse, ragged " nigger " 
clothes ; they had a bull's-eye lantern, and by its light I 
noticed that the gentler robber had no thumb on his right 
hand. They rummaged around my poor cabin for a moment ; 
the head bandit then said, in his stage whisper, — 

"It's a waste of time — he shall tell where it's hid. 
Undo his gag, and revive him up." 

The other said — 

" All right — provided no clubbing." 



" No clubbing it is, then — provided he keeps still." 
They approached me ; just then there was a sound out- 
side ; a sound of voices and trampling hoofs ; the robbers 
held their breath and listened ; the sounds came slowly 
nearer and nearer ; then came a shout — 

" Hello, the house ! Show a liffht, we want water." 


" The captain's 
voice, by G — ! " 
said the stage-whis- 
pering ruffian, and 
both robbers fled 
by the way of the 
back door, shutting 
off their bull's-eye 
as they ran. 
The strangers shouted several times more, then rode by — 
there seemed to be a dozen of the horses — and I heard 
nothing more. 

I struggled, but could not free myself from my bonds. I 
tried to speak, but the gag was effective ; I could not make 
a sound. I listened for my wife's voice and my child's — 
listened long and intently, but no sound came from the other 
end of the room where their bed was. This silence became 
more and more awful, more and more ominous, every moment. 


Could you have endured an hour of it, do you think ? Pity 
me, then, who had to endure three. Three hours? — it was 
three ages ! "Whenever the clock struck, it seemed as if 
years had gone by since I had heard it last. All this time I 
was struggling in my bonds ; and at last, about dawn, I got 
myself free, and rose up and stretched my stiff limbs. I 
was able to distinguish details pretty well. The floor was 
littered with things thrown there by the robbers during their 
search for my savings. The first object that caught my par- 
ticular attention was a document of mine which I had seen 
the rougher of the two ruffians glance at and then cast away. 
It had blood on it! I staggered to the other end of the 
room. Oh, poor unoffending, helpless ones, there they lay, 
their troubles ended, mine begun ! 

Did I appeal to the law — I? Does it quench the pauper's 
thirst if the King drink for him ? Oh, no, no, no — I wanted 
no impertinent interference of the law. Laws and the gal- 
lows could not pay the debt that was owing to me ! Let the 
laws leave the matter in my hands, and have no fears : I 
would find the debtor and collect the debt. How accomplish 
this, do you say ? How accomplish it, and feel so sure about 
it, when I had neither seen the robbers' faces, nor heard 
their natural voices, nor had any idea who they might be ? 
Nevertheless, I was sure — quite sure, quite confident. I 
had a clue — a clue which you would not have valued — a 
clue which would not have greatly helped even a detective, 
since he would lack the secret of how to apply it. I shall 
come to that, presently — you shall see. Let us go on, now, 
taking things in their due order. There was one circum- 
stance which gave me a slant in a definite direction to begin 
with : Those two robbers were manifestly soldiers in tramp 
disguise ; and not new to military service, but old in it — 
regulars, perhaps ; they did not acquire their soldierly atti- 
tude, gestures, carriage, in a day, nor a month, nor yet in a 
year. So I thought, but said nothing. And one of them 
had said, " the captain's voice, by G — !" — the one whose 


life I would have. Two miles away, several regiments were 
in camp, and two companies of U. S. cavalry. When I 
learned that Captain Blakely, of Company C had passed our 
way, that night, with an escort, I said nothing, but in that 
company I resolved to seek my man. In conversation I stu- 
diously and persistently described the robbers as tramps, 
camp followers ; and among this class the people made use- 
less search, none suspecting the soldiers but me. 

Working patiently, by night, in my desolated home, I 
made a disguise for myself out of various odds and ends 
of clothing; in the nearest village I bought a pair of blue 
goggles. By and by, when the military camp broke up, and 
Company C was ordered a hundred miles north, to Napoleon, 
I secreted my small hoard of money in my belt, and took 
my departure in the night. When Company C arrived in 
Napoleon, I was already there. Yes, I was there, with a new 
trade — fortune-teller. Not to seem partial, I made friends 
and told fortunes among all the companies garrisoned there ; 
but I gave Company C the great bulk of my attentions. I 
made myself limitlessly obliging to these particular men ; 
they could ask me no favor, put upon me no risk, which I 
would decline. I became the willing butt of their jokes ; this 
perfected my popularity ; I became a favorite. 

I early found a private who lacked a thumb — what joy it 
was to me ! And when I found that he alone, of all the 
company, had lost a thumb, my last misgiving vanished ; I 
was sure I was on the right track. This man's name was 
Kruger, a German. There were nine Germans in the com- 
pany. I watched, to see who might be his intimates ; but he 
seemed to have no especial intimates. But / was his inti- 
mate ; and I took care to make the intimacy grow. Some- 
times I so hungered for my revenge that I could hardly 
restrain myself from going on my knees and begging him 
to point out the man who had murdered my wife and child ; 
but I managed to bridle my tongue. I bided my time, and 
went on telling fortunes, as opportunity offered. 



My apparatus was simple : a little red paint and a bit 
of white paper. I painted the ball of the client's thumb, 

took a print of it on the 

paper, studied it that 

night, and revealed his 

fortune to him next day. 

What was my idea in this 

nonsense ? It was this : 

When I was a youth, I knew an 

old Frenchman who had been a 

prison-keeper for thirty years, and 

he told me that there was one 

thing about a person which never 

changed, from the cradle to the grave — the lines in the 

ball of the thumb ; and he said that these lines were never 

exactly alike in the thumbs of any two human beings. In 

these days, we photograph the new criminal, and hang his 





picture in the Rogues' Gallery for future reference; but 
that Frenchman, in his day, used to take a print of the 
ball of a new prisoner's thumb and put that away for future 
reference. He always said that pictures were no good — 
future disguises could make them useless ; " The thumb 's 
the only sure thing," said he; "you can't disguise that." 
And he used to prove his theory, too, on my friends and 
acquaintances; it always succeeded. 

I went on telling fortunes. 
Every night I shut myself in, 
all alone, and studied the day's 
thumb-prints with a magnifying- 
glass. Imagine the devouring 
eagerness with which I pored 
over those mazy red spirals, with 
that document by my side which 
bore the right-hand thumb-and 
finger-marks of that unknown 
murderer, printed with the dear- 
est blood — to me — that was ever shed on this earth! And 
many and many a time I had to repeat the same old disap. 
pointed remark, " will they never correspond ! " 

But my reward came at last. It was the print of the 
thumb of the forty-third man of Company C whom I had 
experimented on — private Franz Adler. An hour before, I 
did not know the murderer's name, or voice, or figure, or 
face, or nationality ; but now I knew all these things ! I 
believed I might feel sure; the Frenchman's repeated dem- 
onstrations being so good a warranty. Still, there was a way 
to make sure. I had an impression of Kruger's left thumb. 
In the morning I took him aside when he was off duty ; and 
when we were out of sight and hearing of witnesses, I said, 
impressively : — 

" A part of your fortune is so grave, that I thought it 
would be better for you if I did not tell it in public. You 
and another man, whose fortune I was studying last night, 



— private Adler, — have been murdering a woman and a 
child ! You are being dogged : within five days both of you 
will be assassinated." 

He dropped on his knees, frightened out of his wits ; and 
for live minutes he kept pouring out the same set of words, 
like a demented person, and in the same half-crying way 
which was one of my memories of that murderous night in 
my cabin : — 

"I didn't do it; upon my soul 
I did n't do it ; and I tried to keep 
him from doing it ; I did, as 
God is my wit- 
ness. He did 
it alone." 

This was 
all I wanted. 
And I tried 
to get rid of 
the fool ; but 
no, he clung 
to me, implor- 
ing me to save 
him from the 
assassin. He 
said, — 

"I have 
money — ten thousand dol- 
lars — hid away, the fruit 
of loot and thievery ; save 
me — tell me what to do, 
and you shall have it, every 
penny. Two thirds of it is 

my cousin Adler's ; but you can take it all. We hid it when 
we first came here. But I hid it in a new place yesterday, 
and have not told him — shall not tell him. I was going to 
desert, and get away with it all. It is gold, and too heavy. 



to carry when one is running and dodging ; but a woman 
who has been gone over the river two days to prepare my 
way for me is going to follow me with it ; and if I got no 
chance to describe the hiding-place to her I was going to slip 
my silver watch into her hand, or send it to her, and she 
would understand. There 's a piece of paper in the back of 
the case, which tells it all. Here, take the watch — tell me 
what to do ! " 

He was trying to press his watch upon me, and was ex- 
posing the paper and explaining it to me, when Adler ap- 
peared on the scene, about a dozen yards away. I said to 
poor Kruger : — 

" Put up your watch, I don't want it. You shan't come to 
any harm. Go, now ; I must tell Adler his fortune. Pres- 
ently I will tell you how to escape the assassin ; meantime 
shall have to examine your thumb-mark again. Say nothing 
to Adler about this thing — say nothing to anybody." 

He went away filled with fright and gratitude, poor devil. 
I told Adler a long fortune, — purposely so long that I could 
not finish it ; promised to come to him on guard, that night, 
and tell him the really important part of it — the tragical 
part of it, I said, — so must be out of reach of eavesdroppers. 
They always kept a picket-watch outside the town, — mere dis- 
cipline and ceremony, — no occasion for it, no enemy around. 

Toward midnight I set out, equipped with the counter- 
sign, and picked my way toward the lonely region where 
Adler was to keep his watch. It was so dark that I stumbled 
right on a dim figure almost before I could get out a pro- 
tecting word. The sentinel hailed and I answered, both at 
the same moment. I added, " It 's only me — the fortune- 
teller." Then I slipped to the poor devil's side, and without 
a word I drove my dirk into his heart ! Ja wohl, laughed I, 
it was the tragedy part of his fortune, indeed ! As he fell 
from his horse, he clutched at me, and my blue goggles re- 
mained in his hand ; and away plunged the beast dragging 
him, with his foot in the stirrup. 



I fled through the woods, and made good my escape, 
leaving the accusing goggles behind me in that dead man's 


This was fifteen or sixteen years ago. Since then I have 
wandered aimlessly about the earth, sometimes at work, 
sometimes idle ; sometimes with money, sometimes with 
none ; but always tired of life, and wishing it was done, for 
my mission here was finished, with the act of that night ; 
and the only pleasure, solace, satisfaction I had, in all those 
tedious years, was in the daily reflection, "I have killed 



Four years ago, my health began to fail. I had wandered 
into Munich, in my purposeless way. Being out of money, 
I sought work, and got it ; did my duty faithfully about a 
year, and was then given the berth of night watchman yonder 
in that dead-house which you visited lately. The place suited 
my mood. I liked it. I liked being with the dead — liked 

being alone 
with them. 
I used to wan- 
der among 
those rigid 
corpses, and 
peer into their 
austere faces, 
by the hour. 
The later the 
time, the more 
impressive it 
was ; I pre- 
ferred the late 
time. Some- 
times I turned 
the lights low: 
this gave per- 
spective, you 
see; and the 
in the morgue. imagination 

could play ; al- 
ways, the dim receding ranks of the dead inspired one with 
weird and fascinating fancies. Two years ago — I had been 
there a year then — I was sitting all alone in the watch-room, 
one gusty winter's night, chilled, numb, comfortless ; drowsing 
gradually into unconsciousness ; the sobbing of the wind and 
the slamming of distant shutters falling fainter and fainter 
upon my dulling ear each moment, when sharp and suddenly 
that dead-bell rang out a blood-curdling alarum over my 


head ! The shock of it nearly paralyzed me ; for it was the 
first time I had ever heard it. 

I gathered myself together and flew to the corpse-room. 
About midway down the outside rank, a shrouded figure was 
sitting upright, wagging its head slowly from one side to the 
other — a grisly spectacle ! Its side was toward me. I 
hurried to it and peered into its face. Heavens, it was 
Adler ! 

Can you divine what my first thought was ? Put into 
words, it was this : " It seems, then, you escaped me once : 
there will be a different result this time ! " 

Evidently this creature was suffering unimaginable terrors. 
Think what it must have been to wake up in the midst of 
that voiceless hush, and look out over that grim congregation 
of the dead ! What gratitude shone in his skinny white face 
when he saw a living form before him ! And how the fer- 
vency of this mute gratitude was augmented when his eyes 
fell upon the life-giving cordials which I carried in my hands ! 
Then imagine the horror which came into this pinched face 
when I put the cordials behind me, and said mockingly, — 

" Speak up, Franz Adler — call upon these dead. Doubt- 
less they will listen and have pity ; but here there is none 
else that will." 

He tried to speak, but that part of the shroud which bound 
his jaws, held firm and would not let him. He tried to lift 
imploring hands, but they were crossed upon his breast and 
tied. I said — 

" Shout, Franz Adler ; make the sleepers in the distant 
streets hear you and bring help. Shout — and lose no time, 
for there is little to lose. What, you cannot ? That is a 
pity ; but it is no matter — it does not always bring help. 
When you and your cousin murdered a helpless woman and 
child in a cabin in Arkansas — my wife, it was, and my child ! 
— they shrieked for help, you remember ; but it did no good ; 
you remember that it did no good, is it not so ? Your teeth 
chatter — then why cannot you shout ? Loosen the bandages 


with your hands — then you can. Ah, I see — your hands 
are tied, they cannot aid you. How strangely things repeat 
themselves, after long years ; for my hands were tied, that 
night, you remember ? Yes, tied much as yours are now — 
how odd that is. I could not pull free. It did not occur 
to you to untie me ; it does not occur to me to untie you. 

Sli ! there 's a late footstep. It is coming this way. 

Hark, how near it is ! One can count the footfalls — one — 
two — three. There — it is just outside. Now is the time ! 
Shout, man, shout ! — it is the one sole chance between you 
and eternity! Ah, you see you have delayed too long — it 
is gone by. There — it is dying out. It is gone ! Think of 
it — reflect upon it — ■ you have heard a human footstep for 
the last time. How curious it must be, to listen to so com- 
mon a sound as that, and know that one will never hear the 
fellow to it again." 

Oh, my friend, the agony in that shrouded face was ecstasy 
to see ! I thought of a new torture, and applied it — assist- 
ing myself with a trifle of lying invention : — 

" That poor Kruger tried to save my wife and child, and I 
did him a grateful good turn for it when the time came. I 
persuaded him to rob you ; and I and a woman helped him 
to desert, and got him away in safety." 

A look as of surprise and triumph shone out dimly through 
the anguish in my victim's face. I was disturbed, disquieted. 
I said — 

" What, then, — did n't he escape ? " 

A negative shake of the head. 

" No ? What happened, then ? " 

The satisfaction in the shrouded face was still plainer. 
The man tried to mumble out some words — could not suc- 
ceed ; tried to express something with his obstructed hands 
— failed ; paused a moment, then feebly tilted his head, in a 
meaning way, toward the corpse that lay nearest him. 

"Dead?" I asked. "Failed to escape? — caught in the 
act and shot ? " 



Negative shake of the head. 
« How, then ? " 

Again the man tried to do something with his hands. I 
watched closely, but could not guess the intent. I bent over 


and watched still more intently. He had twisted a thumb 
around and was weakly punching at his breast with it. 

" Ah — stabbed, do you mean ? " 

Affirmative nod, accompanied by a spectral smile of such 
peculiar devilishness, that it struck an awakening light 
through my dull brain, and I cried — 

" Did /stab him, mistaking him for you ? — for that stroke 
was meant for none but you." 

The affirmative nod of the re-dying rascal was as joyous 
as his failing strength was able to put into its expression. 



" 0, miserable, miserable me, to slaughter the pitying soul 
that stood a friend to my darlings when they were helpless, 
and would have saved them if he could ! miserable, oh, mis- 
erable, miserable me ! " 

I fancied I heard the muffled gurgle of a mocking laugh. 
I took my face out of my hands, and saw my enemy sinking 
back upon his inclined board. 

He was a satisfactory long time dying. He had a won- 
derful vitality, an astonishing constitution. Yes, he was a 
pleasant long time at it. I got a chair and a newspaper, and 
sat down by him and read. Occasionally I took a sip of 
brandy. This was necessary, on account of the cold. But 
I did it partly because I saw, that along at first, whenever I 
reached for the bottle, he thought I was going to give him 
some. I read aloud : mainly imaginary accounts of people 
snatched from the grave's threshold and restored to life and 
vigor by a few spoonsful of liquor and a warm bath. Yes, 
he had a long, hard death of it — three hours and six min- 
utes, from the time he rang his bell. 

It is believed that in all these eighteen years that have 
elapsed since the institution of the corpse-watch, no shrouded 
occupant of the Bavarian dead-houses has ever rung its bell. 
Well, it is a harmless belief. Let it stand at that. 

The chill of that death-room had penetrated my bones. It 
revived and fastened upon me the disease which had been 
afflicting me, but which, up to that night, had been steadily 
disappearing. That man murdered my wife and my child ; 
and in three days hence he will have added me to his list. 
No matter — God ! how delicious the memory of it ! — I 
caught him escaping from his grave, and thrust him back 
into it ! 

After that night, I was confined to my bed for a week ; 
but as soon as I could get about, I went to the dead-house 
books and got the number of the house which Adler had died 
in. A wretched lodging-house, it was. It was my idea that 
he would naturally have gotten hold of Kruger's effects, being 


his cousin ; and I wanted to get Kruger's watch, if I could. 
But while I was sick, Adler's things had been sold and 
scattered, all except a few old letters, and some odds and 
ends of no value. However, through those letters, I traced 
out a son of Kruger's, the only relative he left. He is a man 
of thirty, now, a shoemaker by trade, and living at No. 14 
Konigstrasse, Mannheim — widower, with several small chil- 
dren. Without explaining to him why, I have furnished two 
thirds of his support, ever since. 

Now, as to that watch — see how strangely things happen ! 
I traced it around and about Germany for more than a year, 
at considerable cost in money and vexation ; and at last I 
got it. Got it, and was unspeakably glad ; opened it, and 
found nothing in it ! Why, I might have known that that 
bit of paper was not going to stay there all this time. Of 
course I gave up that ten thousand dollars then ; gave it up, 
and dropped it out of my mind : and most sorrowfully, for I 
had wanted it for Kruger's son. 

Last night, when I consented at last that I must die, I 
began to make ready. I proceeded to burn all useless papers ; 
and sure enough, from a batch of Adler's, not previously ex- 
amined with thoroughness, out dropped that long-desired 
scrap ! I recognized it in a moment. Here it is — I will 
translate it : 

" Brick livery stable, stone foundation, middle of town, corner of 
Orleans and Market. Corner toward Court-house. Third stone, 
fourth row. Stick notice there, saying how many are to come." 

There — take it, and preserve it. Kruger explained that 
that stone was removable ; and that it was in the north wall 
of the foundation, fourth row from the top, and third stone 
from the west. The money is secreted behind it. He said 
the closing sentence was a blind, to mislead in case the paper 
should fall into wrong hands. It probably performed that 
office for Adler. 

Now I want to beg that when you make your intended 



journey down the river, you will hunt out that hidden money, 
and send it to Adam Kruger, care of the Mannheim address 
which I have mentioned. It will make a rich man of him, 
and I shall sleep the sounder in my grave for knowing that 
I have done what I could for the son of the man who tried 
to save my wife and child — albeit my hand ignorantly struck 
him down, whereas the impulse of my heart would have been 
to shield and serve him. 



SUCH was Ritter's narrative," said I to my two friends. 
There was a profound and impressive silence, which 
lasted a considerable time ; then both men broke into a fu- 
sillade of excited and admiring ejaculations over the strange 
incidents of the tale ; and this, along with a rattling fire 
of questions, was kept up until all hands were about out of 
breath. Then my friends began to cool down, and draw off, 
under shelter of occasional volleys, into silence and abysmal 
reverie. For ten minutes now, there was stillness. Then 
Rogers said dreamily : — 

" Ten thousand dollars." 

Adding, after a considerable pause, — 

" Ten thousand. It is a heap of money." 

Presently the poet inquired, — 

" Are you going to send it to him right away ? " 

" Yes," I said. " It is a queer question." 

No reply. After a little, Rogers asked, hesitatingly : 

" All of it ? — That is — I mean — " 

" Certainly, all of it." 

I was going to say more, but stopped, — was stopped by a 
train of thought which started up in me. Thompson spoke, 
but my mind was absent and I did not catch what he said. 
But I heard Rogers answer, — 

" Yes, it seems so to me. It ought to be quite sufficient ; 
for I don't see that he has done anything." 

Presently the poet said, — 

" When you come to look at it, it is more than sufficient. 



Just look at it — five thousand dollars ! Why, he could n't 
spend it in a lifetime ! And it would injure him, too ; per- 
haps ruin him — you want to look at that. In a little while he 
would throw his last away, shut up his shop, maybe take to 


drinking, maltreat his motherless children, drift into other 
evil courses, go steadily from bad to worse — " 

" Yes, that 's it," interrupted Rogers, fervently, " I 've seen 
it a hundred times — yes, more than a hundred. You put 
money into the hands of a man like that, if you want to de- 
stroy him, that's all ; just put money into his hands, it's all 



you 've got to do ; and if it don't pull him down, and take all 
the usefulness out of him, and all the self-respect and every- 
thing, then I don't know human nature — ain't that so, Thomp- 
son ? And even if we were to give him a third of it ; why, 
in less than six months — " 

" Less than six weeks, you'd better say ! " said I, warming 
up and breaking in. " Unless he had that three thousand 

dollars in safe 
hands where he 
couldn't touch it, 
he would no more 
last you six weeks 
than — " 

" Of course he 
would n't," said 
Thompson ; " I 've 
edited books for 
that kind of peo- 
ple ; and the mo- 
ment they get their 
hands on the roy- 
alty — maybe it's 
three thousand, 
maybe it 's two 
thousand — " 

" What business 
has that shoema- 
ker with two thousand dollars, I should 
like to know ? " broke in Eogers, earnestly. " A 
man perhaps perfectly contented now, there in Mann- 
heim, surrounded by his own class, eating his bread with the 
appetite which laborious industry alone can give, enjoying his 
humble life, honest, upright, pure in heart ; and blest ! — yes, 
I say blest ! blest above all the myriads that go in silk attire 
and walk the empty artificial round of social folly — but 
just you put that temptation before him once ! just you 




lay fifteen hundred dollars before a man like that, and 
say — " 

" Fifteen hundred devils !" cried I, "jive hundred would rot 
his principles, paralyze his industry, drag him to the rumshop, 
thence to the gutter, thence to the almshouse, thence to — " 

" Why put upon ourselves this crime, gentlemen?" inter- 
rupted the poet earnestly and appealingly. "He is happy 
where he is, and as he is. Every sentiment of honor, every 

sentiment of charity, 
every sentiment of high 
and sacred benevolence 
warns us, beseeches us, 
commands us to leave 
him undisturbed. That 
is real friendship, that 
is true friendship. We 
could follow other 
courses that would be 
more showy ; but none 
that would be so truly 
kind and wise, depend 
upon it." 

After some further 
talk, it became evident 
that each of us, down 
in his heart, felt some misgivings over this settlement of 
the matter. It was manifest that we all felt that we ought 
to send the poor shoemaker something. There was long and 
thoughtful discussion of this point ; and we finally decided 
to send him a chromo. 

Well, now that everything seemed to be arranged satis- 
factorily to everybody concerned, a new trouble broke out : 
it transpired that these two men were expecting to share 
equally in the money with me. That was not my idea. I 
said that if they got half of it between them they might con- 
sider themselves lucky. Rogers said : — 




" Who would have had any if it had n't been for me ? I 
flung out the first hint — but for that it would all have gone 
to the shoemaker." 

Thompson said that he was thinking of the thing himself 
at the very moment that Rogers had originally spoken. 

I retorted that the idea would have occurred to me plenty 
soon enough, and without anybody's help. I was slow about 
thinking, maybe, but I was sure. 

This matter warmed up into a quarrel ; then into a fight ; 
and each man got pretty badly battered. As soon as I had 


got myself mended up after a fashion, I ascended to the hur- 
ricane deck in a pretty sour humor. I found Captain McCord 
there, and said, as pleasantly as my humor would permit : — 
" I have come to say good-bye, captain. I wish to go ashore 
at Napoleon." 


" Go ashore where ? " 

" Napoleon." 

The captain laughed ; but seeing that I was not in a jovial 
mood, stopped that and said, — 

" But are you serious ? " 

" Serious ? I certainly am." 

The captain glanced up at the pilot-house and said, — 

" He wants to get off at Napoleon ! " 

" Napoleon ? " 

" That 's what he says." 

" Great Caesar's ghost ! " 

Uncle Mumford approached along the deck. The captain 
said, — 

" Uncle, here 's a friend of yours wants to get off at Napo- 
leon! " 

" Well, by — ! " 

I said, — 

" Come, what is all this about ? Can't a man go ashore at 
Napoleon if he wants to ? " 

" Why, hang it, don't you know ? There is n't any Napoleon 
any more. Has n't been for years and years. The Arkansas 
River burst through it, tore it all to rags, and emptied it into 
the Mississippi ! " 

" Carried the whole, town away ? — banks, churches, jails, 
newspaper-offices, court-house, theatre, fire department, livery 
stable, — everything f " 

" Everything. Just a fifteen-minute job, or such a matter. 
Did n't leave hide nor hair, shred nor shingle of it, except 
the fag-end of a shanty and one brick chimney. This boat is 
paddling along right now, where the dead-centre of that 
town used to be ; yonder is the brick chimney, — all that 's 
left of Napoleon. These dense woods on the right used 
to be a mile back of the town. Take a look behind you — 
up-stream — now you begin to recognize this country, don't 
you ?" 

" Yes, I do recognize it now. It is the most wonderful 



thing I ever heard of ; bj a long shot the most wonderful — 
and unexpected." 

Mr. Thompson and Mr. Rogers had arrived, meantime, with 
satchels and umbrellas, and had silently listened to the cap- 
tain's news. Thompson put a half-dollar in my hand and 
said softly : — 

" For my share of the chromo." 

Rogers followed suit. 


Yes, it was an astonishing thing to 
see the Mississippi rolling between 
unpeopled shores and straight over 
the spot where I used to see a good big self-complacent town 
twenty years ago. Town that was county-seat of a great and 
important county ; town with a big United States marine 
hospital ; town of innumerable fights — an inquest every day ; 
town where I had used to know the prettiest girl, and the 
most accomplished in the whole Mississippi Valley ; town 
where we were handed the first printed news of the " Penn- 
sylvania's" mournful disaster a quarter of a century ago ; a 
town no more — swallowed up, vanished, gone to feed the 
fishes ; nothing left but a fragment of a shanty and a crum- 
bling brick chimney ! 



IN regard to Island 74, which is situated not far from the 
former Napoleon, a freak of the river here has sorely 
perplexed the laws of men and made them a vanity and a jest. 
When the State of Arkansas was chartered, she controlled 
" to the centre of the river " — a most unstable line. The 
State of Mississippi claimed " to the channel " — another 
shifty and unstable line. No. 74 belonged to Arkansas. 
By and by a cut-off threw this big island out of Arkansas, 
and yet not within Mississippi. " Middle of the river " on 
one side of it, " channel " on the other. That is as I under- 
stand the problem. Whether I have got the details right or 
wrong, this fact remains : that here is this big and exceed- 
ingly valuable island of four thousand acres, thrust out in 
the cold, and belonging to neither the one State nor the 
other ; paying taxes to neither, owing allegiance to neither. 
One man owns the whole island, and of right is " the man 
without a country." 

Island 92 belongs to Arkansas. The river moved it over 
and joined it to Mississippi. A chap established a whiskey 
shop there, without a Mississippi license, and enriched 
himself upon Mississippi custom under Arkansas protection 
(where no license was in those days required). 

We glided steadily clown the river in the usual privacy — 
steamboat or other moving thing seldom seen. Scenery as 
always : stretch upon stretch of almost unbroken forest, on 
both sides of the river ; soundless solitude. Here and there 



a cabin or two, standing in small openings on the gray and 
grassless banks — cabins which had formerly stood a quarter 
or half-mile farther to the front, and gradually been pulled 
farther and farther back as the shores caved in. As at Pil- 
cher's Point, for instance, where the cabins had been moved 
back three hundred yards in three months, so we were told ; 
but the caving banks had already caught up with them, and 
they were being conveyed rearward once more. 

Napoleon had but small opinion of Greenville, Mississippi, 
in, the old times ; but behold, Napoleon is gone to the cat- 


fishes, and here is Greenville full of life and activity, and 
making a considerable flourish in the Valley ; having three 
thousand inhabitants, it is said, and doing a gross trade of 
$2,500,000 annually. A growing town. 

There was much talk on the boat about the Calhoun Land 
Company, an enterprise which is expected to work whole- 


some results. Colonel Calhoun, a grandson of the states- 
man, went to Boston and formed a syndicate which pur- 
chased a large tract of land on the river, in Chicot County, 
Arkansas, — some ten thousand acres — for cotton-growing. 
The purpose is to work on a cash basis : buy at first hands, 
and handle their own product ; supply their negro laborers 
with provisions and necessaries at a trifling profit, say 8 or 
10 per cent ; furnish them comfortable quarters, etc., and 
encourage them to save money and remain on the place. 
If this proves a financial success, as seems quite certain, 
they propose to establish a banking-house in Greenville, and 
lend money at an unburdensome rate of interest — 6 per 
cent is spoken of. 

The trouble heretofore has been — I am quoting remarks 
of planters and steamboatmen — that the planters, although 
owning the land, were without cash capital ; had to hypothe- 
cate both land and crop to carry on the business. Conse- 
quently, the commission dealer who furnishes the money 
takes some risk and demands big interest — usually 10 per 
cent, and 2J per cent for negotiating the loan. The planter 
has also to buy his supplies through the same dealer, paying 
commissions and profits. Then when he ships his crop, the 
dealer adds his commissions, insurance, etc. So, taking it 
by and large, and first and last, the dealer's share of that 
crop is about 25 per cent. 1 

A cotton-planter's estimate of the average margin of profit 
on planting, in his section : One man and mule will raise ten 
acres of cotton, giving ten bales cotton, worth, say, $500 ; 
cost of producing, say 8350 ; net profit, $150, or $15 per 
acre. There is also a profit now from the cotton-seed, which 
formerly had little value — none where much transportation 

1 " But what can the State do where the people are under subjection to 
rates of interest ranging from 18 to 30 per cent, and are also under the neces- 
sity of purchasing their crops in advance even of planting, at these rates, for 
the privilege of purchasing all their supplies at 100 per cent profit "i " — Edward 



was necessary. In sixteen hundred pounds crude cotton, 
four hundred are lint, worth, say, ten cents a pound ; and 
twelve hundred pounds of seed, worth $12 or §13 per ton. 
Maybe in future even the stems will not be thrown away. 
Mr. Edward Atkinson says that for each bale of cotton there 
are fifteen 
pounds of 
stems, and 
that these 
are ve ry 
rich in phos- 
phate of lime 
and potash ; 
that when 
ground and 
mixed with 
ensilage or 
cotton - seed 
meal (which 
is too rich 
for use as 
fodder in 
large quan- 
tities), the stem mixture makes a superior food, rich in all 
the elements needed for the production of milk, meat, 
and bone. Heretofore the stems have been considered a 

Complaint is made that the planter remains grouty toward 
the former slave, since the war ; will have nothing but a 
chill business relation with him, no sentiment permitted to 
intrude ; will not keep a " store " himself, and supply the 
negro's wants and thus protect the negro's pocket and make 
him able and willing to stay on the place and an advantage 
to him to do it, but lets that privilege to some thrifty Israel- 
ite, who encourages the thoughtless negro and wife to buy 





all sorts of things which they could do without, — buy on 
credit, at big prices, month after month, credit based on the 
negro's share of the growing crop ; and at the end of the 
season, the negro's share belongs to the Israelite, the negro 
is in debt besides, is discouraged, dissatisfied, restless, and 

both he and 

the planter 

are injured ; 

for he will take 

steamboat and 

migrate, and the TH e iseaelite. 

planter must get 

a stranger in his place who does not know him, does not 

care for him, will fatten the Israelite a season, and follow 

his predecessor per steamboat. 

It is hoped that the Calhoun Company will show, by its 
humane and protective treatment of its laborers, that its 
method is the most profitable for both planter and negro ; 
and it is believed that a general adoption of that method will 
then follow. 



And where so many are saying their say, shall not the bar- 
keeper testify? He is thoughtful, observant, never drinks; 

endeavors to earn 
his salary, and 
would earn it if 
there were cus- 
tom enough. He 
says the people 
along here in 
Mississippi and 
Louisiana will 
send up the river 
to buy vegetables 
rather than raise them, and they 
will come aboard at the landings 
and buy fruits of the barkeeper. 
Thinks they " don't know any- 
thing but cotton ; " believes they 
don't know how to raise vegeta- 
and fruit — " at least the 
most of them." Says " a nigger 
will go to H for a watermelon" 
the barkeeper. ("H" is all I find in the steno- 

grapher's report — means Halifax 
probably, though that seems a good way to go for a water- 
melon). Barkeeper buys watermelons for five cents up the 
river, brings them down and sells them for fifty. " Why 
does he mix such elaborate and picturesque drinks for the 
nigger hands on the boat ? " Because they won't have any 
other. " They want a big drink ; don't make any differ- 
ence what you make it of, they want the worth of their 
money. You give a nigger a plain gill of half-a-dollar brandy 
for five cents — will he touch it ? No. Ain't size enough to 
it. But you put up a pint of all kinds of worthless rubbish, 
and heave in some red stuff to make it beautiful — red 's the 
main thing — and he would n't put down that glass to go to 




a circus." All the bars on this Anchor Line are rented and 
owned by one firm. They furnish the liquors from their 

own establish- 
ment, and hire the 
barkeepers "on 
salary." Good 
liquors? Yes, on 
some of the boats, 
where there are the 
kind of passengers 
that want it and can 
pay for it. On the 
other boats ? No. 
Nobody but the deck 
hands and firemen to 
drink it. " Brandy ? 
Yes, I 've got brandy, 
plenty of it ; but you 
don't want any of 
it unless you 've 
made your will." It 
is n't as it used to 
be in the old times. 
Then everybody trav- 
elled by steamboat, 
everybody drank, 
and everybody treat- 
ed everybody else. 
" Now most every- 
body goes by rail- 
road, and the rest 
don't drink." In the 
old times, the bar- 
keeper owned the bar himself, " and was gay and smarty and 
talky and all jewelled up, and was the toniest aristocrat on 
the boat ; used to make $2,000 on a trip. A father who left 




his son a steamboat bar, left him a fortune. Now he leaves 
him board and lodging ; yes, and washing, if a shirt a trip 
will do. Yes, indeedy, times are changed. Why, do you 
know, on the principal line of boats on the Upper Missis- 
sippi, they don't have any bar at all ! Sounds like poetry, 
but it 's the petrified truth." 



STACK ISLAND. 1 remembered Stack Island; also 
Lake Providence, Louisiana — which is the first dis- 
tinctly Southern-looking town you come to, downward- 
bound ; lies level and low, shade-trees hung with venerable 
gray beards of Spanish moss ; " restful, pensive, Sunday 
aspect about the place," comments Uncle Mumford, with 
feeling — also with truth. 

A Mr. H. furnished some minor details of fact concerning 
this region which I would have hesitated to believe if I had 
not known him to be a steamboat mate. He was a passenger 

of ours, a resident of Arkansas 
City, and bound to Vicksburg 
to join his boat, a little Sun- 
flower packet. He was an aus- 
tere man, and had the reputa- 
tion of being singularly un- 
worldly, for a river man. Among 
other things, he said that Ar- 
kansas had been injured and 
kept back by generations of ex- 
aggerations concerning the mos- 
quitoes there. One may smile ? 
said he, and turn the matter off as being a small thing ; but 
when you come to look at the effects produced, in the way of 
discouragement of immigration, and diminished values of 
property, it was quite the opposite of a small thing, or thing 
in any wise to be coughed down or sneered at. These mos- 




quitoes had been persistently represented as being formidable 
and lawless; whereas " the truth is, they are feeble, insig- 
nificant in size, diffident to a fault, sensitive " — and so on, 
and so on ; you would have supposed he was talking about 
his family. But if he was soft on the Arkansas mosquitoes, 
he was hard enough on the mosquitoes of Lake Providence 
to make up for it — "those Lake Providence colossi," as he 
finely called them. He said that two of them could whip a 
dog, and that four of them could hold a man down ; and 
except help come, they would kill him — " butcher him," as 
he expressed it. Referred in a sort of casual way - — and yet 
significant way — to " the 
fact that the life policy in 
its simplest form is un- 
known in Lake Providence 
— they take out a mosquito 
policy besides." He told 
many remarkable things 
about those lawless insects. 
Among others, said he had 
seen them try to vote. No- 
ticing that this statement 
seemed to be a good deal 
of a strain on us, he mod- 
ified it a little : said he 
might have been mista- 
ken, as to that particular, 
but' knew he had seen 
them around the polls 
" canvassing." 

There was another pas- 
senger — friend of H.'s — 
who backed up the harsh 
evidence against those 

mosquitoes, and detailed some stirring adventures which he 
had had with them. The stories were pretty sizable, merely 




pretty sizable ; yet Mr. H. was continually interrupting with a 
cold, inexorable " Wait — knock off twenty-five per cent of 
that ; now go on ; " or, " Wait — you are getting that too 
strong ; cut it down, cut it down — you get a leetle too much 
costumery on to your statements : always dress a fact in 
tights, never in an ulster ; " or, " Pardon, once more : if you 
are going to load anything more on to that statement, you 
want to get a couple of lighters and tow the rest, because it 's 
drawing all the water there is in the river already ; stick to 
facts — just stick to the cold facts ; what these gentlemen 
want for a book is the frozen truth — ain't that so, gentle- 
men ? " He explained privately that it was necessary to 
watch this man all the time, and keep him within bounds ; 
it would not do to neglect this precaution, as he, Mr. H., 
" knew to his sorrow." Said he, " I will not deceive you ; he 
told me such a monstrous lie once, that it swelled my left 
ear up, and spread it so that I was actually not able to see 
out around it ; it remained so for months, and people came 
miles to see me fan myself with it." 



WE used to plough past the lofty hill-city, Vicksburg, 
down -stream ; but we cannot do that now. A cut- 
off has made a country town of it, like Osceola, St. Gen- 
evieve, and several others. There is currentless water — 

also a big 
island — 
in front 
of Vicks- 
burg now. 
You come 
down the 
river the 
other side 
of the is- 
land, then 
turn and 
come up 
r_ - ■ to the town ; that 
is, in high water : in 
low water you can't come 
up, but must land some 
distance below it. 
Signs and scars still remain, as reminders of Vicksburg's 
tremendous war-experiences; earthworks, trees crippled by 
the cannon balls, cave-refuges in the clay precipices, etc. 
The caves did good service during the six weeks' bom- 



bardment of the city — May 18 to July 4, 1863. They were 
used by the non-combatants — mainly by the women and 
children ; not to live in constantly, but to fly to for safety 
on occasion. They were mere holes, tunnels, driven into 
the perpendicular clay bank, then branched Y shape, within 
the hill. Life in Vicksburg, during the six weeks was per- 
haps — but wait ; here are some materials out of which to 
reproduce it : — 

Population, twenty-seven thousand soldiers and three thou- 
sand non-combatants ; the city utterly cut off from the 
world — walled solidly in, the frontage by gunboats, the 
rear by soldiers and batteries ; hence, no buying and sell- 
ing with the outside ; no passing to and fro ; no God-speed- 
ing a parting guest, no welcoming a coming one ; no printed 
acres of world-wide news to be read at breakfast, mornings 

— a tedious dull absence of such matter, instead; hence, 
also, no running to see steamboats smoking into view in 
the distance up or down, and ploughing toward the town 

— for none came, the river lay vacant and undisturbed ; no 
rush and turmoil around the railway station, no struggling 
over bewildered swarms of passengers by noisy mobs of 
hack men — all quiet there ; flour two hundred dollars a 
barrel, sugar thirty, corn ten dollars a bushel, bacon five 
dollars a pound, rum a hundred dollars a gallon ; other 
things in proportion : consequently, no roar and racket of 
drays and carriages tearing along the streets ; nothing for 
them to do, among that handful of non-combatants of 
exhausted means ; at three o'clock in the morning, silence ; 
silence so dead that the measured tramp of a sentinel 
can be heard a seemingly impossible distance ; out of hear- 
ing of this lonely sound, perhaps the stillness is absolute: 
all in a moment come ground-shaking thunder-crashes of 
artillery, the sky is cobwebbed with the cris-crossing red 
lines streaming from soaring bomb-shells, and a rain of 
iron fragments descends upon the city ; descends upon the 
empty streets : streets which are not empty a moment 



later, but mottled with dim figures of frantic women and 
children skurrying from home and bed toward the cave 
dungeons — encouraged by the humorous grim soldiery, who 
shout " Rats, to your holes ! " and laugh. 

The cannon -thunder rages, shells scream and crash over- 
head, the iron rain pours down, one hour, two hours, three, 



possibly six, then stops ; silence follows, but the streets are 
still empty ; the silence continues ; by and by a head projects 
from a cave here and there and yonder, and reconnoitres, 
cautiously ; the silence still continuing, bodies follow heads, 
and jaded, half-smothered creatures group themselves about, 
stretch their cramped limbs, draw in deep draughts of the 
grateful fresh air, gossip with the neighbors from the next 


cave ; maybe straggle off home presently, or take a lounge 
through the town, if the stillness continues; and will skurry 


to the holes again, by and by, when the war-tempest breaks 
forth once more. 

There being but three thousand of these cave-dwellers — 
merely the population of a village — would they not come to 


know each other, after a week or two, and familiarly ; inso- 
much that the fortunate or unfortunate experiences of one 
would be of interest to all ? 

Those are the materials furnished by history. From them 
might not almost anybody reproduce for himself the life of 
that time in Vicksburg ? Could you, who did not experience 
it, come nearer to reproducing it to the imagination of another 
non-participant than could a Vicksburger who did experience 
it ? It seems impossible ; and yet there are reasons why it 
might not really be. When one makes his first voyage in a 
ship, it is an experience which multitudinously bristles with 
striking novelties ; novelties which are in such sharp con- 
trast with all this person's former experiences that they take 
a seemingly deathless grip upon his imagination and memory. 
By tongue or pen he can make a landsman live that strange 
and stirring voyage over with him ; make him see it all and 
feel it all. But if he wait ? If he make ten voyages in 
succession — what then ? Why, the thing has lost color, 
snap, surprise ; and has become commonplace. The man 
would have nothing to tell that would quicken a landsman's 

Years ago, I talked with a couple of the Vicksburg non- 
combatants — a man and his wife. Left to tell their story 
in their own way, those people told it without fire, almost 
without interest. 

A week of their wonderful life there would have made 
their tongues eloquent forever perhaps ; but they had six 
weeks of it, and that wore the novelty all out ; they 
got used to being bomb-shelled out of home and into the 
ground ; the matter became commonplace. After that, the 
possibility of their ever being startlingly interesting in their 
talks about it was gone. What the man said was to this 
effect : — 

" It got to be Sunday all the time. Seven Sundays in the week — 
to us, anyway. We had n't anything to do, and time hung heavy. 



Seven Sundays, and all of them broken up at one time or another, in 
the day or in the night, by a few hours of the awful storm of fire 
and thunder and iron. At first we used to shin for the holes a good 
deal faster than we did afterwards. The first time, I forgot the chil- 
dren, and Maria fetched them both along. When she was all safe 


in the cave she fainted. Two or three weeks afterwards, when she 
was running for the holes, one morning, through a shell-shower, a 
big shell burst near her and covered her all over with dirt, and a 
piece of the iron carried away her game-bag of false hair from the 
back of her head. Well, she stopped to get that game-bag before 
she shoved along again ! Was getting used to things already, you 
see. We all got so that we could tell a good deal about shells ; and 
after that we did n't always go under shelter if it was a light shower. 
Us men would loaf around and talk ; and a man would say, ' There 
she goes ! ' and name the kind of shell it was from the sound of it, 



and go on talking — if there was n't any 
danger from it. If a shell was bursting 
close over us, we stopped talking and 
stood still ; — uncomfortable, yes, but 
it was n't safe to move. When it let 
go, we went on talking again, if nobody 
hurt — maybe saying, ' That was a rip- 
per ! ' or some such commonplace com- 
ment before we resumed ; or, maybe, 
we would see a shell poising itself 
away high in the air overhead. In 
that case, every fellow 
just whipped out a sud- 
den, ' See you again, 
gents ! ' and shoved. Of- 
ten and often I saw 
gangs of ladies prome- 
nading the streets, look- 
ing as cheerful as you 
please, and keeping an 
eye canted up watching 
the shells ; and I 've seen 
them stop still when they 
were uncertain about 
what a shell was going 
to do, and wait and make 
certain ; and after that 
they s'antered along 
again, or lit out for 
shelter, according to the 
verdict. Streets in some 
towns have a litter of 
pieces of paper, and odds 
and ends of one sort or 
another lying around. 
Ours had n't ; they had 

iron litter. Sometimes a man would gather up all the iron fragments 
and unbursted shells in his neighborhood, and pile them into a kind 
of monument in his front yard — a ton of it, sometimes. No glass 



left ; glass could n't stand such a bombardment ; it was all shivered 
out. Windows of the houses vacant — looked like eye-holes in a 
skull. Whole panes were as scarce as news. 

" We had church Sundays. Not many there, along at first ; but 
by and by pretty good turnouts. I 've seen service stop a minute, 
and everybody sit quiet — no voice heard, pretty funeral-like then — 
and all the more so on account of the awful boom and crash going 
on outside and overhead ; and pretty soon, when a body could be 
heard, service would go on again. Organs and church-music mixed 
up with a bombardment is a powerful queer combination — along at 
first. Coming out of church, one morning, we had an accident — 
the only one that happened around me on a Sunday. I was just 
having a hearty hand-shake with a friend I had n't seen for a while, 
and saying, ' Drop into our cave to-night, after bombardment ; we 've 
got hold of a pint of prime wh — . ' Whiskey, I was going to say, 
you know, but a shell interrupted. A chunk of it cut the man's arm 
off, and left it dangling in my hand. And do you know the thing 
that is going to stick the longest in my memory, and outlast every- 
thing else, little and big, I reckon, is the mean thought I had 
then ? It was ' the whiskey is saved.' 1 And yet, don't you know, 
it was kind of excusable ; because it was as scarce as diamonds, 
and we had only just that little ; never had another taste during 
the siege. 

" Sometimes' the caves were desperately crowded, and always hot 
and close. Sometimes a cave had twenty or twenty-five people 
packed into it ; no turning-room for anybody ; air so foul, some- 
times, you could n't have made a candle burn in it. A child was 
born in one pf those caves one night. Think of that ; why, it was 
like having it born in a trunk. 

" Twice we had sixteen people in our cave ; and a number of 
times we had a dozen. Pretty suffocating in there. We always had 
eight ; eight belonged there. Hunger and misery and sickness and 
fright and sorrow, and I don't know what all, got so loaded into 
them that none of them were ever rightly their old selves after the 
siege. They all died but three of us within a couple of years. One 
night a shell burst in front of the hole and caved it in and stopped it 
up. It was lively times, for a while, digging out. Some of us came 
near smothering. After that we made two openings — ought to have 
thought of it at first. 



" Mule meat ? No, we only got down to that the last day or two. 
Of course it was good ; anything is good when you are starving." 

This man had kept a diary during — six weeks ? No, only 
the first six days. The first day, eight close pages ; the 
second, five; the third, one — loosely written; the fourth, 
three or four lines ; a line or two the fifth and sixth days ; 
seventh day, diary abandoned ; life in terrific Vicksburg 
having now become commonplace and matter of course. 

"mtjle meat?' 

The war history of Vicksburg has more about it to interest 
the general reader than that of any other of the river-towns. 
It is full of variety, full of incident, full of the picturesque. 
Vicksburg held out longer than any other important river- 
town, and saw warfare in all its phases, both land and water 
— the siege, the mine, the assault, the repulse, the bombard- 
ment, sickness, captivity, famine. 

The most beautiful of all the national cemeteries is here 
Over the great gateway is this inscription : — 



IN THE YEARS 1861 TO 1865." 

The grounds are nobly situated ; being very high and com- 
manding a wide prospect of land and river. They are taste- 

fully laid out in broad terraces, with wind- 
ing roads and paths ; and there is profuse 
adornment in the way of semi-tropical 
Pfpft' shrubs and flowers ; and in one part is a 
W' piece of native wild-wood, left just as it 
*Y. [/■ grew, and, therefore, perfect in its charm. 

Everything about this cemetery suggests 
the hand of the national Government. 
The Government's work is always conspicuous for excellence, 
solidity, thoroughness, neatness. The Government does its 
work well in the first place, and then takes care of it. 


By winding-roads — which were often cut to so great a 
depth between perpendicular walls that they were mere roof- 
less tunnels — we drove out a mile or two and visited the 
monument which stands upon the scene of the surrender of 
Vicksburg to General Grant by General Pemberton. Its 
metal will preserve it from the hackings and chippings which 
so defaced its predecessor, which was of marble ; but the 
brick foundations are crumbling, and it will tumble down by 
and by. It overlooks a picturesque region of wooded hills 
and ravines ; and is not unpicturesque itself, being well 
smothered in flowering weeds. The battered remnant of 
the marble monument has been removed to the National 

On the road, a quarter of a mile townward, an aged colored 
man showed us, with pride, an unexploded bomb-shell which 
has lain in his yard since the day it fell there during the 

" I was a-stannin' heah, an' de dog was a-stannin' heah ; 
de dog he went for de shell, gwine to pick a fuss wid it ; but 
I didn't ; I says, ' Jes' make youseff at home heah ; lay still 
whah you is, or bust up de place, jes' as you 's a mind to, but 
J's got business out in de woods, /has ! ' " 

Vicksburg is a town of substantial business streets and 
pleasant residences ; it commands the commerce of the 
Yazoo and Sunflower Rivers ; is pushing railways in several 
directions, through rich agricultural regions, and has a prom- 
ising future of prosperitj?" and importance. 

Apparently, nearly all the river towns, big and little, have 
made up their minds that they must look mainly to railroads 
for wealth and upbuilding, henceforth. They are acting 
upon this idea. The signs are, that the next twenty years 
will bring about some noteworthy changes in the Valley, in 
the direction of increased population and wealth, and in the 
intellectual advancement and the liberalizing of opinion 
which go naturally with these. And yet, if one may judge 
by the past, the river towns will manage to find and use a 



chance, here and there, to cripple and retard their progress. 
They kept themselves back in the days of steamboating 
supremacy, by a system of wharfage-dues so stupidly graded 
as to prohibit what may be called small retail traffic in 
freights and passengers. Boats were charged such heavy 
wharfage that they could not afford to land for one or two 
passengers or a light lot of freight. Instead of encouraging 
the bringing of trade to their doors, the towns diligently 
and effectively discouraged it. They could have had many 
boats and low rates ; but their policy rendered few boats 
and high rates compulsory. It was a policy which extended 
— and extends — from New Orleans to St. Paul. 

We had a strong desire to make a trip up the Yazoo and 
the Sunflower — an interesting region at any time, but addi- 
tionally interesting at this time, because up there the 
great inundation was still to be seen in force, — but we were 
nearly sure to have to wait a day or more for a New Orleans 
boat on our return ; so we were obliged to give up the 

Here is a story which I picked up on board the boat that 
night. I insert it in this place merely because it is a good 
story, not because it belongs here — for it does n't. It was 
told by a passenger — a college professor — and was called 
to the surface in the course of a general conversation which 
began with talk about horses, drifted into talk about astron- 
omy, then into talk about the lynching of the gamblers in 
Vicksburg half a century ago, then into talk about dreams 
and superstitions ; and ended, after midnight, in a dispute 
over free trade and protection. 



IT was in the early days. I was not a college professor 
then. I was a humble-minded young land-surveyor, with 
the world before me — to survey, in case anybody wanted it 
done. I had a contract to survey a route for a great mining- 
ditch in California, and I was on my way thither, by sea — 
a three or four weeks' voyage. There were a good many 
passengers, but I had very little to say to them ; reading and 
dreaming were my passions, and I avoided conversation in 
order to indulge these appetites. There were three profes- 
sional gamblers on board — rough, repulsive fellows. I never 
had any talk with them, yet i could not help seeing them 
with some frequency, for they gambled in an upper-deck 
state-room every day and night, and in my promenades I 
often had glimpses of them through their door, which stood 
a little ajar to let out the surplus tobacco smoke and profan- 
ity. They were an evil and hateful presence, but I had to 
put up with it, of course. 

There was one other passenger who fell under my eye a 
good deal, for he seemed determined to be friendly with me, 
and I could not have gotten rid of him without running some 
chance of hurting his feelings^ and I was far from wishing to 
do that. Besides, there was something engaging in his coun- 
trified simplicity and his beaming good-nature. The first 
time I saw this Mr. John Backus, I guessed, from his clothes 
and his looks, that he was a grazier or farmer from the back 
woods of some western State — doubtless Ohio — and after- 
ward when he dropped into his personal history and I dis- 



covered that he was a cattle-raiser from interior Ohio, I was 
so pleased with my own penetration that I warmed toward 
him for verifying my instinct. 

He got to dropping alongside me every day, after break- 
fast, to help me make my promenade ; and so, in the course 
of time, his easy-working jaw had told me everything about 

his business, 
his prospects, 
his family, his 
relatives, his 
politics — in 
fact every- 
thing that 
concerned a 
Backus, living or dead. And 
meantime I think he had man- 
aged to get out of me everything 
I knew about my trade, my tribe, 
my purposes, my prospects, and 
myself. He was a gentle and 
persuasive genius, and this thing 
showed it; for I was not given 
to talking about my matters. I 
said something about triangula- 
tion, once ; the stately word 
pleased his ear ; he inquired what 
it meant ; I explained ; after that 
he quietly and inoffensively ig- 
nored my name, and always 
called me Triangle. 

What an enthusiast he was in 
cattle ! At the bare name of a 
bull or a cow, his eye would light 
and his eloquent tongue would 
turn itself loose. As long as I 
would walk and listen, he would walk and talk ; he knew all 



breeds, he loved all breeds, he caressed them all with his 
affectionate tongue. I tramped along in voiceless misery 
whilst the cattle question was up ; when I could endure it 
no longer, I used to deftly insert a scientific topic into the 
conversation ; then my eye fired and his faded ; my tongue 
fluttered, his stopped ; life was a joy to me, and a sadness to 

One day he said, a little hesitatingly, and with somewhat 
of diffidence : — 

"Triangle, would you mind coming down to my state-room 
a minute, and have a little talk on a certain matter ? " 

I went with him at once. Arrived there, he put his head 
out, glanced up and down the saloon warily, then closed 
the door and locked it. We sat down on the sofa, and he 
said : — 

" I 'm a-going to make a little proposition to you, and if it 
strikes you favorable, it '11 be a middling good thing for both 
of us. You ain't a-going out to Californy for fun, nuther 
am I — it 's business, ain't that so ? Well, you can do me a 
good turn, and so can I you, if we see fit. I 've raked and 
scraped and saved, a considerable many years, and I 've got 
it all here." He unlocked an old hair trunk, tumbled a chaos 
of shabby clothes aside, and drew a short stout bag into view 
for a moment, then buried it again and relocked the trunk. 
Dropping his voice to a cautious low tone, he continued, 
" She 's all there — a round ten thousand dollars in yellow- 
boys ; now this is my little idea : What I don't know about 
raising cattle, ain't worth knowing. There 's mints of money 
in it, in Californy. Well, I know, and you know, that all 
along a line that 's being surveyed, there 's little dabs of land 
that they call ' gores,' that fall to the surveyor free gratis for 
nothing. All you 've got to do, on your side, is to survey in 
such a way that the ' gores ' will fall on good fat land, then 
you turn 'em over to me, I stock 'em with cattle, in rolls the 
cash, I plank out your share of the dollars regular, right 
along, and — " 



I was sorry to wither his blooming enthusiasm, but it 
could not be helped. I interrupted, and said severely, — 

"I am not that kind 
of a surveyor. Let us 
change the subject, Mr. 

It was pitiful to see his 
confusion and hear his 
awkward and shamefaced 
apologies. I was as 
much distressed as he 

was — especially as he seemed so far from having suspected 
that there was anything improper in his proposition. So I 
hastened to console him and lead him on to forget his mishap 
in a conversational orgy about cattle and butchery. We 
were lying at Acapulco ; and, as we went on deck, it hap- 



pened luckily that the crew were just beginning to hoist 
some beeves aboard in slings. Backus's melancholy van- 
ished instantly, and with it the memory of his late mistake. 

" Now only look at that ! " cried he ; " My goodness, Tri- 
angle, what would they say to it in Ohio ? Would n't their 
eyes bug out, to see 'em handled like that ? — would n't they, 
though ? " 

All the passengers were on deck to look — even the gam- 
blers — and Backus knew them all, and had afflicted them 
all with his pet topic. As I moved away, I saw one of the 
gamblers approach and accost him ; then another of them ; 
then the third. I halted ; waited ; watched ; the conversa- 
tion continued between the four men ; it grew earnest ; 
Backus drew gradually away ; the gamblers followed, and 
kept at his elbow. I was uncomfortable. However, as they 
passed me presently, I heard Backus say, with a tone of per- 
secuted annoyance : — 

" But it ain't any use, gentlemen ; I tell you again, as I 've 
told you a half a dozen times before, I war n't raised to it, and 
I ain't a-going to resk it." 

I felt relieved. " His level head will be his sufficient pro- 
tection," I said to myself. 

During the fortnight's run from Acapulco to San Fran- 
cisco I several times saw the gamblers talking earnestly with 
Backus, and once I threw out a gentle warning to him. He 
chuckled comfortably and said, — 

" Oh, yes ! they tag around after me considerable — want 
me to play a little, just for amusement, they say — but laws- 
a-me, if my folks have told me once to look out for that sort 
of live-stock, they 've told me a thousand times, I reckon." 

By and by, in due course, we were approaching San 
Francisco. It was an ugly black night, with a strong wind 
blowing, but there was not much sea. I was on deck, alone. 
Toward ten I started below. A figure issued from the gam- 
blers' den, and disappeared in the darkness. I experienced 
a shock, for I was sure it was Backus. I flew down the 



companion-way, looked about for him, could not find him, 
then returned to the deck just in time to catch a glimpse 
of him as he re-entered that confounded nest of rascality. 
Had he yielded at last? I feared it. What had he gone 
below for? — His bag of coin? Possibly. I drew near the 
door, full of bodings. It was a-crack, and I glanced in and 

saw a sight that made me 
bitterly wish I had given 
my attention to saving my 
poor cattle-friend, instead 
of reading and dreaming 
my foolish time away. He 
was gambling. Worse still, 
he was being plied with 
champagne, and was al- 
ready showing some effect 
from it. He praised the 
" cider," as he called it, and 
said now that he had got a 
taste of it he almost be- 
lieved he would drink it 
if it was spirits, it was so 
good and so ahead of any- 
thing he had ever run across 
before. Surreptitious 
smiles, at this, passed from 
one rascal to another, and 
they filled all the glasses, and whilst Backus honestly drained 
Ills to the bottom they pretended to do the same, but threw 
the wine over their shoulders. 

I could not bear the scene, so I wandered forward and 
tried to interest myself in the sea and the voices of the 
wind. But no, my uneasy spirit kept dragging me back at 
quarter-hour intervals ; and always I saw Backus drinking 
his wine — fairly and squarely, and the others throwing 
theirs away. It was the painfulest night I ever spent. 




The only hope I had was that we might reach our anchor- 
age with speed — that would break up the game. I helped 
the ship along all I could with my prayers. At last we went 
booming through the Golden Gate, and my pulses leaped for 
joy. I hurried back to that door and glanced in. Alas, there 
was small room for hope — Backus's eyes were heavy and 

bloodshot, his sweaty face was 
crimson, his speech maudlin 
and thick, his body sawed drunk- 
enly about with the weaving 
motion of the ship. He drained 
another glass to the dregs, 
whilst the cards were being dealt. 

He took his hand, glanced at it, and his dull eyes lit up 
for a moment. The gamblers observed it, and showed their 
gratification by hardly perceptible signs. 

" How many cards ? " 

" None ! " said Backus. 

One villain — named Hank Wiley — discarded one card,, 


the others three each. The betting began. Heretofore the 
bets had been trifling — a dollar or two ; but Backus started 
off with an eagle now, Wiley hesitated a moment, then " saw 
it " and " went ten dollars better." The other two threw up 
their hands. 

Backus went twenty better. Wiley said, — 

" I see that, and go you a hundred better ! " then smiled 
and reached for the money. 

" Let it alone," said Backus, with drunken gravity. 

" What ! you mean to say you 're going to cover it ? " 

" Cover it ? Well I reckon I am — and lay another hun- 
dred on top of it, too." 

He reached down inside his overcoat and produced the 
required sum. 

" Oh, that 's your little game, is it ? I see your raise, and 
raise it five hundred ! " said Wiley. 

" Five hundred better ! " said the foolish bull-driver, and 
pulled out the amount and showered it on the pile. The 
three conspirators hardly tried to conceal their exultation. 

All diplomacy and pretence were dropped now, and the 
sharp exclamations came thick and fast, and the yellow 
pyramid grew higher and higher. At last ten thousand 
dollars lay in view. Wiley cast a bag of coin on the table, 
and said with mocking gentleness, — 

" Five thousand dollars better, my friend from the rural 
districts — what do you say noiv f " 

" I call you ! " said Backus, heaving his golden shot-bag 
on the pile. " What have you got ? " 

" Four kings, you d — d fool ! " and Wiley threw down his 
cards and surrounded the stakes with his arms. 

" Four aces, you ass ! " thundered Backus, covering 
his man with a cocked revolver. "I'm a professional 
gambler myself, and I've been laying for you duffers all 
this voyage!''' 

Down went the anchor, rumbledy-dum-dum ! and the long 
trip was ended. 



Well — well, it is a sad world. One of the three gamblers 
was Backus's " pal." It was he that dealt the fateful hands. 


According to an understanding with the two victims, he was 
to have given Backus four queens, but alas, he did n't. 

A week later, I stumbled upon Backus — arrayed in the 
height of fashion — in Montgomery Street. He said, cheerily, 
as we were parting, — 

" Ah, by-the-way, you need n't mind about those gores. I 
don't really know anything about cattle, except what I was 
able to pick up in a week's apprenticeship over in Jersey just 



before we sailed. My cattle-culture and cattle-enthusiasm 
have served their turn — I shan't need them any more." 

Next day we reluctantly parted from the " Gold Dust " 
and her officers, hoping to see that boat and all those officers 
again, some day. A thing which the fates were to render 
tragically impossible ! 



FOR, three months later, August 8, while I was writing 
one of these foregoing chapters, the New York papers 
brought this telegram : — 


seventeen persons killed by an explosion on the steamer 
"gold dust." 

" Nashville, Aug. 7. — A despatch from Hickman, Ky., 
says : — 

" The steamer ' Gold Dust ' exploded her boilers at three o'clock 
to-day, just after leaving Hickman. Forty-seven persons were 
scalded and seventeen are missing. The boat was landed in the 
eddy just above the town, and through the exertions of the citizens 
the cabin passengers, officers, and part of the crew and deck passen- 
gers were taken ashore and removed to the hotels and residences. 
Twenty-four of the injured were lying in Holcomb's dry-goods 
store at one time, where they received every attention before being 
removed to more comfortable places." 

A list of the names followed, whereby it appeared that of 
the seventeen dead, one was the barkeeper ; and among the 
forty-seven wounded, were the captain, chief mate, second 
mate, and second and third clerks ; also Mr. Lem. S. Gray, 
pilot, and several members of the crew. 

In answer to a private telegram, we learned that none of 
these was severely hurt, except Mr. Gray. Letters received 



afterward confirmed this news, and said that Mr. Gray was 
improving and would get well. Later letters spoke less 
hopefully of his case ; and finally came one announcing his 
death. A good man, a most companionable and manly man, 
and worthy of a kindlier fate. 



WE took passage in a Cincinnati boat for New Orleans ; 
or on a Cincinnati boat — either is correct; the former 
is the eastern form of putting it, the latter the western. 

Mr. Dickens declined to agree that the Mississippi steam- 
boats were " magnificent," or that they were " floating pala- 
ces," — terms which had always been applied to them ; terms 
which did not over-express the admiration with which the 
people viewed them. 

Mr. Dickens's position was unassailable, possibly ; the 
people's position was certainly unassailable. If Mr. Dickens 
was comparing these boats with the crown jewels ; or with 
the Taj, or with the Matterhorn ; or with some other price- 
less or wonderful thing which he had seen, they were not 
magnificent — he was right. The people compared them 
with what they had seen ; and, thus measured, thus judged, 
the boats were magnificent — the term was the correct one, 
it was not at all too strong. The people were as right as 
was Mr. Dickens. The steamboats were finer than anything 
on shore. Compared with superior dwelling-houses and first 
class hotels in the Yalley, thej were indubitably magnifi- 
cent, they were " palaces." To a few people living in New 
Orleans and St. Louis, they were not magnificent, perhaps ; 
not palaces ; but to the great majority of those populations, 
and to the entire populations spread over both banks between 
Baton Rouge and St. Louis, they were palaces ; they tallied 
with the citizen's dream of what magnificence was, and 
satisfied it. 


Every town and village along that vast stretch of double 
river-frontage had a best dwelling, finest dwelling, mansion, 

— the home of its wealthiest and most conspicuous citizen. 
It is easy to describe it : large grassy yard, with paling fence 
painted white — in fair repair ; brick walk from gate to 
door ; big, square, two-story " frame " house, painted white 
and porticoed like a Grecian temple — with this difference, 
that the imposing fluted columns and Corinthian capitals 
were a pathetic sham, being made of white pine, and 
painted ; iron knocker ; brass door knob — discolored, for 
lack of polishing. Within, an uncarpeted hall, of planed 
boards ; opening out of it, a parlor, fifteen feet by fifteen — 
in some instances five or ten feet larger ; ingrain carpet ; 
mahogany centre-table ; lamp on it, with green-paper shade 

— standing on a gridiron, so to speak, made of high-colored 
yarns, by the young ladies of the house, and called a lamp- 
mat; several books, piled and disposed, with cast-iron 
exactness, according to an inherited and unchangeable plan; 
among them, Tupper, much pencilled ; also, " Friendship's 
Offering," and " Affection's Wreath," with their sappy 
inanities illustrated in die-away mezzotints ; also, Ossian ; 
" Alonzo and Melissa ; " maybe " Ivanhoe ; " also " Album," 
full of original " poetry " of the Thou-hast-wounded-the- 
spirit-that-loved-thee breed ; two or three goody-goody works 
— " Shepherd of Salisbury Plain," etc. ; current number of 
the chaste and innocuous Godey's " Lady's Book," with 
painted fashion-plate of wax-figure women with mouths all 
alike — lips and eyelids the same size — each five-foot woman 
with a two-inch wedge sticking from under her dress and 
letting-on to be half of her foot. Polished air-tight stove 
(new and deadly invention), with pipe passing through a 
board which closes up the discarded good old fireplace. On 
each end of the wooden mantel, over the fireplace, a large 
basket of peaches and other fruits, natural size, all done in 
plaster, rudely, or in wax, and painted to resemble the origi- 
nals — which they don't. Over middle of mantel, engraving 



— Washington Crossing the Delaware ; on the wall by the 
door, copy of it done in thunder-and-lightning crewels by 
one of the young ladies — work of art which would have 
made Washington hesitate about crossing, if he could have 
foreseen what advantage was going to be taken of it. Piano 

— kettle in disguise — with music, bound and unbound, piled 
on it, and on a stand near by : Battle of Prague ; Bird 
Waltz ; Arkansas Traveller ; Rosin the Bow ; Marseilles 
Hymn ; On a Lone Barren Isle (St. Helena) ; The Last 
Link is Broken ; She wore a Wreath of Roses the Night 
when last we met ; Go, forget me, Why should Sorrow 
o'er that Brow a Shadow fling; Hours there were to 
Memory Dearer ; Long, Long Ago ; Days of Absence ; A 
Life on the Ocean Wave, a Home on the Rolling Deep ; Bird 
at Sea ; and spread open on the rack, where the plaintive 
singer has left it, ifo-holl on, silver moo-hoon, guide the 
trav-el-levr his way, etc. Tilted pensively against the piano, 
a guitar — guitar capable of playing the Spanish Fandango 
by itself, if you give it a start. Frantic work of art on the 
wall — pious motto, done on the premises, sometimes in 
colored yarns, sometimes in faded grasses : progenitor of the 
" God Bless Our Home " of modern commerce. Framed in 
black mouldings on the wall, other works of art, conceived 
and committed on the premises, by the young ladies ; being 
grim black-and-white crayons ; landscapes, mostly : lake, 
solitary sail-boat, petrified clouds, pre-geological trees on 
shore, anthracite precipice ; name of criminal conspicuous 
in the corner. Lithograph, Napoleon Crossing the Alps. 
Lithograph, The Grave at St. Helena. Steel-plates, Trum- 
bull's Battle of Bunker Hill, and the Sally from Gibraltar. 
Copper-plates, Moses Smiting the Rock, and Return of the 
Prodigal Son. In big gilt frame, slander of the family in 
oil : papa holding a book (" Constitution of the United 
States"); guitar leaning against mamma, blue ribbons flut- 
tering from its neck ; the young ladies, as children, in slippers 
and scalloped pantelettes, one embracing toy horse, the other 


beguiling kitten with ball of yarn, and both simpering up at 
mamma, who simpers back. These persons all fresh, raw, and 
red — apparently skinned. Opposite, in gilt frame, grandpa 
and grandma, at thirty and twenty-two, stiff, old-fashioned, 
high-collared, puff-sleeved, glaring pallidly out from a back- 
ground of solid Egyptian night. Under a glass French clock 
dome, large bouquet of stiff flowers done in corpsy white wax. 
Pyramidal what-not in the corner, the shelves occupied 
chiefly with bric-a-brac of the period, disposed with an eye 
to best effect : shell, with the Lord's Prayer carved on it ; 
another shell — of the long-oval sort, narrow, straight orifice, 
three inches long, running from end to end — portrait of 
Washington carved on it ; not well done ; the shell had 
Washington's mouth, originally — artist should have built to 
that. These two are memorials of the long-ago bridal trip 
to New Orleans and the French Market. Other bric-a-brac : 
Californian " specimens" — quartz, with gold wart adhering; 
old Guinea-gold locket, with circlet of ancestral hair in it ; 
Indian arrow-heads, of flint ; pair of bead moccasins, from 
uncle who crossed the Plains ; three " alum " baskets of 
various colors — being skeleton-frame of wire, clothed-on 
with cubes of crystallized alum in the rock-candy style — 
works of art which were achieved by the young ladies ; their 
doubles and duplicates to be found upon all what-nots in the 
land ; convention of desiccated bugs and butterflies pinned to 
a card ; painted toy-dog, seated upon bellows-attachment — 
drops its under jaw and squeaks when pressed upon ; sugar- 
candy rabbit — limbs and features merged together, not 
strongly defined ; pewter presidential-campaign medal ; min- 
iature card-board wood-sawyer, to be attached to the stove- 
pipe and operated by the heat; small Napoleon, done in wax; 
spread-open daguerreotypes of dim children, parents, cousins, 
aunts, and friends, in all attitudes but customary ones ; no 
templed portico at back, and manufactured landscape stretch- 
ing away in the distance — that came in later, with the 
photograph ; all these vague figures lavishly chained and 



ringed — metal indicated and secured from doubt by stripes 
and splashes of vivid gold bronze ; all of them too much 
combed, too much fixed up ; and all of them uncomfortable 
in inflexible Sunday-clothes of a pattern which the specta- 
tor cannot realize could 
ever have been in fash- 
ion ; husband and wife 
generally grouped to- 
gether — 

sitting, wife standing, with 
hand on his shoulder — and 
both preserving, all these fad- 
ing years, some traceable effect 
of the daguerreotypist's brisk 
" Now smile, if you please ! " 
Bracketed over what-not — 
place of special sacredness- — 
an outrage in water-color, done 
by the young niece that came 
on a visit long ago, and died. 
Pity, too; for she might 
have repented of this in time. 
Horse-hair chairs, horse-hair 
sofa which keeps sliding from 
under you. Window shades, 
of oil stuff, with milk-maids and ruined castles stencilled on 
them in fierce colors. Lambrequins dependent from gaudy 



boxings of beaten tin, gilded. Bedrooms with rag carpets ; 
bedsteads of the " corded " sort, with a sag in the middle, 
the cords needing tightening ; snuffy feather-bed — not aired 
often enough ; cane-seat chairs, splint-bottomed rocker ; 
looking-glass on wall, school-slate size, veneered frame ; 
inherited bureau ; wash-bowl and pitcher, possibly — but not 
certainly ; brass candlestick, tallow candle, snuffers. Nothing 
else in the room. Not a bathroom in the house ; and no 
visitor likely to come along who has ever seen one. 

That was the residence of the- principal citizen, all the 
way from the suburbs of New Orleans to the edge of St. 
"Louis. When he stepped aboard a big fine steamboat, he 
entered a new and marvellous world : chimney-tops cut to 
counterfeit a spraying crown of plumes — and maybe painted 
red ; pilot-house, hurricane deck, boiler-deck guards, all 
garnished with white wooden filagree work of fanciful pat- 
terns ; gilt acorns topping the derricks ; gilt deer-horns over 
the big bell ; gaudy symbolical picture on the paddle-box, 
possibly ; big roomy boiler-deck, painted blue, and furnished 
with Windsor arm-chairs ; inside, a far receding snow-white 
" cabin ; " porcelain knob and oil-picture on every state-room 
door ; curving patterns of filagree-work touched up with 
gilding, stretching overhead all down the converging vista ; 
big chandeliers every little way, each an April shower of 
glittering glass-drops ; lovely rainbow-light falling every- 
where from the colored glazing of the skylights ; the whole 
a long-drawn, resplendent tunnel, a bewildering and soul- 
satisfying spectacle ! in the ladies' cabin a pink and white 
Wilton carpet, as soft as mush, and glorified with a ravish- 
ing pattern of gigantic flowers. Then the Bridal Chamber 
— the animal that invented that idea was still alive and 
unhanged, at that day — Bridal Chamber whose pretentious 
flummery was necessarily overawing to the now tottering 
intellect of that hosannahing citizen. Every state-room had 
its couple of cosy clean bunks, and perhaps a looking-glass 
and a snug closet ; and sometimes there was even a wash- 



bowl and pitcher, and part of a towel which could be told 
from mosquito netting by an expert — though generally these 
things were absent, and the shirt-sleeved passengers cleansed 
themselves at a long row of stationary bowls in the barber 
shop, where were also public towels, public combs, and public 

Take the steamboat which I have just described, and you 
have her in her highest and finest, and most pleasing, and 
comfortable, and satisfactory estate. Now cake her over 
with a layer of ancient and obdurate dirt, and you have the 
Cincinnati steamer awhile ago referred to. Not all over — 
only inside ; for she was ably officered in all departments 
except the steward's. 

But wash that boat and repaint her, and she would be 
about the counterpart of the most complimented boat of the 
old flush times : for the steamboat architecture of the West 
has undergone no change ; neither has steamboat furniture 
and ornamentation undergone any. 



WHERE the river, in the Vicksburg region, used to be 
corkscrewed, it is now comparatively straight — 
made so by cut-off ; a former distance of seventy miles is 
reduced to thirty-five. It is a change which threw Vicks- 
burg's neighbor, Delta, Louisiana, out into the country and 
ended its career as a river town. Its whole river-frontage is 
now occupied by a vast sand-bar, thickly covered with young 
trees — a growth which will magnify itself into a dense for- 
est, by and by, and completely hide the exiled town. 

In due time we passed Grand Gulf and Rodney, of war 
fame, and reached Natchez, the last of the beautiful hill- 
cities — for Baton Rouge, yet to come, is not on a hill, but 
only on high ground. Famous Natchez-under-the-hill has 
not changed notably in twenty years ; in outward aspect — 
judging by the descriptions of the ancient procession of 
foreign tourists — it has not changed in sixty ; for it is still 
small, straggling, and shabby. It had a desperate reputation, 
morally, in the old keel-boating and early steamboating times 
— plenty of drinking, carousing, fisticuffing, and killing 
there, among the riff-raff of the river, in those days. But 
Natchez-on-top-of-the-hill is attractive ; has always been 
attractive. Even Mrs. Trollope (1827) had to confess its 
charms : 

" At one or two points the wearisome level line is relieved by 
Muffs, as they call the short intervals of high ground. The town 
of Natchez is beautifully situated on one of those high spots. The 
contrast that its bright green hill forms with the dismal line of black 



forest that stretches on every side, the abundant growth of the paw- 
paw, palmetto and orange, the copious variety of sweet-scented flowers 
that flourish there, all make it appear like an oasis in the desert. 
Natchez is the furthest point to the north at which oranges ripen in 
the open air, or endure the winter without shelter. With the excep- 
tion of this sweet spot, I thought all the little towns and villages 
we passed wretched-looking in the extreme." 

Natchez, like her near and far river neighbors, has rail- 
ways now, and is adding to them — pushing them hither 


and thither into all rich outlying regions that are naturally 
tributary to her. And like Vicksburg and New Orleans, she 
has her ice-factory ; she makes thirty tons of ice a day. In 
Vicksburg and Natchez, in my time, ice was jewelry ; none 
but the rich could wear it. But anybody and everybody can 
have it now. I visited one of the ice-factories in New 
Orleans, to see what the polar regions might look like when 
lugged into the edge of the tropics. But there was nothing 


striking in the aspect of the place. It was merely a spacious 
house, with some innocent steam machinery in one end of it 
and some big porcelain pipes running here and there. No, 
not porcelain — they merely seemed to be; they were iron, 
but the ammonia which was being breathed through them 
had coated them to the thickness of your hand with solid 
milk-white ice. It ought to have melted ; for one did not 
require winter clothing in that atmosphere : but it did not 
melt ; the inside of the pipe was too cold. 

Sunk into the floor were numberless tin boxes, a foot 
square and two feet long, and open at the top end. These 
were full of clear water; and around each box, salt and other 
proper stuff was packed ; also, the ammonia gases were 
applied to the water in some way which will always remain 
a secret to me, because I was not able to understand the 
process. While the water in the boxes gradually froze, men 
gave it a stir or two with a stick occasionally — to liberate 
the air-bubbles, I think. Other men were continually lifting 
out boxes whose contents had become hard frozen. They 
gave the box a single dip into a vat of boiling water, to melt 
the block of ice free from its tin coffin, then they shot the 
block out upon a platform car, and it was ready for market. 
These big blocks were hard, solid, and crystal-clear. In 
certain of them, big bouquets of fresh and brilliant tropical 
flowers had been frozen-in ; in others, beautiful silken-clad 
French dolls, and other pretty objects. These blocks were to 
be set on end in a platter, in the centre of dinner-tables, to 
cool the tropical air ; and also to be ornamental, for the 
flowers and things imprisoned in them could be seen as 
through plate glass. I was told that this factory could 
retail its ice, by wagon, throughout New Orleans, in the 
humblest dwelling house quantities, at six or seven dollars 
a ton, and make a sufficient profit. This being the case, 
there is business for ice factories in the North ; for we get 
ice on no such terms there, if one take less than three 
hundred and fifty pounds at a delivery. 



The Rosalie Yarn Mill, of Natchez, has a capacity of 
6,000 spindles and 160 looms, and employs 100 hands. The 
Natchez Cotton Mills Company began operations four years 
ago in a two-story building of 50 X 190 feet, with 4,000 
spindles and 128 looms ; capital 1105,000, all subscribed in 
the town. Two years later, the same stockholders increased 
their capital to $225,000 ; added a third story to the mill, 
increased its length to 317 feet ; added machinery to increase 
the capacity to 10,300 spindles and 304 looms. The company 
now employ 250 
operatives, many of 
whom are citizens 
of Natchez. " The 
mill works 5,000 
bales of cotton an- 
nually and manu- 
factures the best 
standard quality of 
brown shirtings and 
sheetings and drills, 
turning out 5,000,- 
000 yards of these 
goods per year." 1 
A close corporation 
— stock held at 
$5,000 per share, 
but none in the 

The changes in the Mississippi River are great and strange, 
yet were to be expected ; but I was not expecting to live to 
see Natchez and these other river towns become manufactur- 
ing strongholds and railway centres. 

Speaking of manufactures reminds me of a talk upon that 
topic which I heard — which I overheard — on board the 
Cincinnati boat. I awoke out of a fretted sleep, with a dull 


1 " New Orleans Times-Democrat," Aug. 26, 1882. 


confusion of voices in my ears. I listened — two men were 
talking ; subject, apparently, the great inundation. I looked 
out through the open transom. The two men were eating a 
late breakfast ; sitting opposite each other ; nobody else 
around. They closed up the inundation with a few words — 
having used it, evidently, as a mere ice-breaker and acquaint- 
anceship-breeder — then they dropped into business. It 
soon transpired that they were drummers — one belonging 
in Cincinnati, the other in New Orleans. Brisk men, ener- 
getic of movement and speech ; the dollar their god, how to 
get it their religion. 

" Now as to this article," said Cincinnati, slashing into the 
ostensible butter and holding forward a slab of it on his knife- 
blade, " it's from our house ; look at it — smell of it — taste 
it. Put any test on it you want to. Take your own time — 
no hurry — make it thorough. There now — what do you 
say ? butter, ain't it? Not by a thundering sight — it 's oleo- 
margarine ! Yes, sir, that 's what it is — oleomargarine. 
You can't tell it from butter ; by George, an expert can't. 
It 's from our house. We supply most of the boats in the 
West ; there 's hardly a pound of butter on one of them. We 
are crawling right along — jumping right along is the word. 
We are going to have that entire trade. Yes, and the hotel 
trade, too. You are going to see the day, pretty soon, when 
you can't find an ounce of butter to bless yourself with, in any 
hotel in the Mississippi and Ohio Valleys, outside of the 
biggest cities. Why, we are turning out oleomargarine now 
by the thousands of tons. And we can sell it so dirt-cheap 
that the whole country has got to take it — can't get around 
it you see. Butter don't stand any show — there ain't any 
chance for competition. Butter 's had its day — and from 
this out, butter goes to the wall. There 's more money in 
oleomargarine than — why, you can't imagine the business 
we do. I've stopped in every town, from Cincinnati to 
Natchez ; and I 've sent home big orders from every one of 



And so-forth and so-on, for ten minutes longer, in the 
same fervid strain. Then New Orleans piped up and said: — 

" Yes, it 's a first-rate 
imitation, that 's a cer- 
tainty; but it ain't the 
only one around that's 
first-rate. For instance, 


they make olive-oil out of cotton-seed oil, now-a-days, so 
that you can't tell them apart." 

" Yes, that 's so," responded Cincinnati, " and it was a tip- 
top business for a while. They sent it over and brought it 
back from Prance and Italy, with the United States custom- 
house mark on it to indorse it for genuine, and there was no 
end of cash in it ; but France and Italy broke up the game 
— of course they naturally would. Cracked on such a 
rattling impost that cotton-seed olive-oil could n't stand the 
raise ; had to hang up and quit." 


" Oh, it did, did it ? You wait here a minute." 

Goes to his state-room, brings back a couple of long bottles, 
and takes out the corks — says : — 

" There now, smell them, taste them, examine the bottles, 
inspect the labels. One of 'm's from Europe, the other's 
never been out of this country. One 's European olive-oil, 
the other 's American cotton-seed olive-oil. Tell 'm apart ? 
'Course you can't. Nobody can. People that want to, can go 
to the expense and trouble of shipping their oils to Europe 
and back — it 's their privilege ; but our firm knows a trick 
worth six of that. We turn out the whole thing — clean 
from the word go — in our factory in New Orleans : labels, 
bottles, oil, everything. Well, no, not labels : been buying 
them abroad — get them dirt-cheap there. You see, there 's 
just one little wee speck, essence, or whatever it is, in a 
gallon of cotton-seed oil, that gives it a smell, or a flavor, or 
something — get that out, and you 're all right — perfectly 
easy then to turn the oil into any kind of oil you want to, 
and there ain't anybody that can detect the true from the 
false. Well, we know how to get that one little particle out 
— and we 're the only firm that does. And we turn out an 
olive-oil that is just simply perfect — undetectable ! We are 
doing a ripping trade, too — as I could easily show you by 
my order-book for this trip. Maybe you '11 butter every- 
body's bread pretty soon, but we '11 cotton-seed his salad 
for him from the Gulf to Canada, and that 's a dead-certain 

Cincinnati glowed and flashed with admiration. The two 
scoundrels exchanged business-cards, and rose. As they 
left the table, Cincinnati said, — 

" But you have to have custom-house marks, don't you ? 
How do you manage that ? " 

I did not catch the answer. 

Wef passed Port Hudson, scene of two of the most terrific 
episodes of the war — the night-battle there between Far- 
ragut's fleet and the Confederate land batteries, April 14th, 



1863 ; and the memorable land battle, two months later, 
which lasted eight hours — eight hours of exceptionally fierce 
and stubborn fighting — and ended, finally, in the repulse of 
the Union forces with great slaughter. 



BATON ROUGE was clothed in flowers, like a bride- 
no, much more so ; like a greenhouse. For we were 
in the absolute South now — no modifications, no compro- 
mises, no half-way measures. The magnolia-trees in the 
Capitol grounds were lovely and fragrant, with their dense 
rich foliage and huge snow-ball blossoms. The scent of the 
flower is very sweet, but you want distance on it, because it 
is so powerful. They are not good bedroom blossoms — 
they might suffocate one in his sleep. We were certainly in 
the South at last ; for here the sugar region begins, and the 
plantations — vast green levels, with sugar-mill and negro 
quarters clustered together in the middle distance — were in 
view. And there was a tropical sun overhead and a tropical 
swelter in the air. 

And at this point, also, begins the pilot's paradise : a wide 
river hence to New Orleans, abundance of water from shore 
to shore, and no bars, snags, sawyers, or wrecks in his road. 

Sir Walter Scott is probably responsible for the Capitol 
building ; for it is not conceivable that this little sham castle 
would ever have been built if he had not run the people mad, 
a couple of generations ago, with his mediaeval romances. 
The South has not yet recovered from the debilitating influ- 
ence of his books. . Admiration of his fantastic heroes and 
their grotesque " chivalry " doings and romantic juvenilities 
still survives here, in an atmosphere in which is already per- 
ceptible the wholesome and practical nineteenth-century 
smell of cotton-factories and locomotives : and traces of its 




inflated language and other windy humbuggeries survive 
along with it. It is pathetic enough, that a whitewashed 
castle, with turrets and things — materials all ungenuine 
within and without, pretending to be what they are not — 
should ever have been built in this otherwise honorable 
place ; but it is much more pathetic to see this architectural 
falsehood undergoing restoration and perpetuation in our 
day, when it would have 
been so easy to let dyna- 
mite finish what a chari- 
table fire began, and then 
devote this restoration- 
money to the building of 
something genuine. 

Baton Rouge has no 
patent on imitation cas- 
tles, however, and no 
monopoly of them. Here 
is a picture from the 

advertisement of the " Female Institute " of Columbia, Ten- 
nessee. The following remark is from the same advertise- 
ment : — 

" The Institute building has long been famed as a model of strik- 
ing and beautiful architecture. Visitors are charmed with its 
resemblance to the old castles of song and story, with its towers, 
turreted walls, and ivy-mantled porches." 

Keeping school in a castle is a romantic thing ; as roman- 
tic as keeping hotel in a castle. 

By itself the imitation castle is doubtless harmless, and 
well enough ; but as a symbol and breeder and sustainer of 
maudlin Middle-Age romanticism here in the midst of the 
plainest and sturdiest and infinitely greatest and worthiest 
of all the centuries the world has seen, it is necessarily a 
hurtful thing and a mistake. 

Here is an extract from the prospectus of a Kentucky 
" Female College." Female college sounds well enough ; 



but since the phrasing it in that unjustifiable way was done 
purely in the interest of brevity, it seems to me that she-col- 
lege would have been still better — because shorter, and 
means the same thing : that is, if either phrase means any- 
thing at all : — 

" The president is southern by birth, by rearing, by education, 
and by sentiment ; the teachers are all southern in sentiment, and 
with the exception of those born in Europe were born and raised 
in the south. Believing the southern to be the highest type of 
civilization this continent has seen, 1 the young ladies are trained 

1 Illustrations of it thoughtlessly omitted by the advertiser : 
Knoxville, Tenn., October 19. — This morning a few minutes after ten 
o'clock, General Joseph A. Mabry, Thomas O'Connor, and Joseph A. Mabiy, 
Jr., were killed in a shooting affray. The difficulty began yesterday afternoon 
by General Mabry attacking Major O'Connor and threatening to kill him. 
This was at the fair grounds, and O'Connor told Mabry that it was not the 
place to settle their difficulties. Mabry then told O'Connor he should not live. 
It seems that Mabry was armed and O'Connor was not. The cause of the 
difficulty was an old feud about the transfer of some property from Mabry to 
O'Connor. Later in the afternoon Mabry sent word to O'Connor that he 
would kill him on sight. This morning Major O'Connor was standing in the 
door of the Mechanics' National Bank, of which he was president. General 
Mabry and another gentleman walked down Gay Street on the opposite side 
from the bank. O'Connor stepped into the bank, got a shot gun, took deliber- 
ate aim at General Mabry and fired. Mabry fell dead, being shot in the left 
side. As he fell O'Connor fired again, the shot taking effect in Mabry's thigh. 
O'Connor then reached into the bank and got another shot gun. About this time 
Joseph A. Mabry, Jr., son of General Mabry, came rushing down the street, 
unseen by O'Connor until within forty feet, when the young man fired a pistol, 
the shot taking effect in O'Connor's right breast, passing through the body 
near the heart. The instant Mabry shot, O'Connor turned and fired, the load 
taking effect in young Mabry's right breast and side. Mabry fell pierced with 
twenty buckshot, and almost instantlv O'Connor fell dead without a struggle. 
Mabry tried to rise, but fell back dead. The whole tragedy occurred within 
two minutes, and neither of the three spoke after he was shot. General Mabry 
had about thirty buckshot in his body. A bystander was painfully wounded in 
the thigh with a buckshot, and another was wounded in the arm. Four other 
men had their clothing pierced by buckshot. The affair caused great excite- 
ment, and Gay Street was thronged with thousands of people. General Mabry 
and his son Joe were acquitted only a few days ago of the murder of Moses 
Lusby and Don Lusby, father and son, whom they killed a few weeks ago. 
Will Mabry was killed by Don Lusby last Christmas. Major Thomas O'Con- 


according to the southern ideas of delicacy, refinement, womanhood, 
religion, and propriety ; hence we offer a first-class female college 
for the south and solicit southern patronage." 

What, warder, ho ! the man that can blow so complacent 
a blast as that, probably blows it from a castle. 

From Baton Rouge to New Orleans, the great sugar plan- 
tations border both sides of the river all the way, and stretch 
their league-wide levels back to the dim forest-walls of 
bearded cypress in the rear. Shores lonely no longer. 
Plenty of dwellings all the way, on both banks — standing 
so close together, for long distances, that the broad river 

nor was President of the Mechanics' National Bank here, and was the wealthi- 
est man in the State. — Associated Press Telegram. 

One day last month, Professor Sharpe, of the Somerville, Tenn., Female 
College, " a quiet and gentlemanly man," was told that his brother-in- 
law, a Captain Burton, had threatened to kill him. Burton, it seems, had 
already killed one man and driven his knife into another. The Professor 
armed himself with a double-barrelled shot gun, started out in search of his 
brother-in-law, found him playing billiards in a saloon, and blew his brains out. 
The "Memphis Avalanche " reports that the Professor's course met with pretty 
general approval in the community ; knowing that the law was powerless, in 
the actual condition of public sentiment, to protect him, he protected himself. 

About the same time, two young men in North Carolina quarrelled about 
a girl, and " hostile messages" were exchanged. Friends tried to reconcile 
them, but had their labor for their pains. On the 24th the young men met in 
the public highway. One of them had a heavy club in his hand, the other an 
axe. The man with the club fought desperately for his life, but it was a hope- 
less fight from the first. A well-directed blow sent his club whirling out of 
his grasp, and the next moment he was a dead man. 

About the same time, two "highly connected " young Virginians, clerks in 
a hardware store at Charlottesville, while "skylarking," came to blows. 
Peter Dick threw pepper in Charles Roads's eyes ; Roads demanded an apol- 
ogy ; Dick refused to give it, and it was agreed that a duel was inevitable, but 
a difficulty arose ; the parties had no pistols, and it was too late at night to 
procure them. One of them suggested that butcher-knives would answer the 
purpose, and the other accepted the suggestion; the result was that Roads fell to 
the floor with a gasli in his abdomen that may or may not prove fatal. If 
Dick has been arrested, the news has not reached us. He " expressed deep 
regret," and we are told by a Staunton correspondent of the "Philadelphia 
Press " that " every effort has been made to hush the matter up." — Extracts 
from the Public Journals. 




\fa «d 









lying between the two rows, becomes 
a sort of spacious street. A most 
home-like and happy-looking region. 
And now and then you see a pil- 
lared and porticoed great manor-house, 
embowered in trees. Here is testi- 
mony of one or two of the procession 
of foreign tourists that filed along 
here half a century ago. Mrs. Trol- 
lope says : — 

" The unbroken flatness of the banks of 
the Mississippi continued unvaried for many 
miles above New Orleans ; but the grace- 
ful and luxuriant palmetto, the dark and 
noble ilex, and the bright orange, were 
everywhere to be seen, and it was many 
days before we were weary of looking at 

Captain Basil Hall : — 



" The district of country winch lies ad- 
jacent to the Mississippi, in the lower parts 
of Louisiana, is everywhere thickly peo- 
pled by sugar planters, whose showy 
houses, gay piazzas, trig gardens, and 

numerous slave-villages, all clean and neat, gave an exceedingly 

thriving air to the river scenery." 



All the procession paint the attractive picture in the same 
way. The descriptions of fifty years ago do not need to 
have a word changed in order to exactly describe the same 
region as it appears to-day — except as to the " trigness " of 
the houses. The whitewash is gone from the negro cabins 
now ; and many, possibly most, of the big mansions, once so 
shining white, have worn out their paint and have a decayed, 
neglected look. It is the blight of the war. Twenty-one 
years ago everything was trim and trig and bright along 
the " coast," just as it had been in 1827, as described by 
those tourists. 

Unfortunate tourists ! People humbugged them with stu- 
pid and silly lies, and then laughed at them for believing 
and printing the same. They told Mrs. Trollope that the 
alligators — or crocodiles, as she calls them — were terrible 
creatures ; and backed up the statement with a blood-cur- 
dling account of how one of these slandered reptiles crept 
into a squatter cabin one night, and ate up a woman and 
five children. The woman, by herself, would have satisfied 
any ordinarily-impossible alligator ; but no, these liars must 
make him gorge the five children besides. One would not 
imagine that jokers of this robust breed would be sensitive 
— but they were. It is difficult, at this day, to understand, 
and impossible to justify, the reception which the book of 
the grave, honest, intelligent, gentle, manly, charitable, well- 
meaning Capt. Basil Hall got. Mrs. Trollope's account of it 
may perhaps entertain the reader ; therefore I have put it 
in the Appendix. 1 

1 See Appendix C. 




HE approaches to New Orleans were familiar ; general 
aspects were unchanged. When one goes flying 


through London along a railway propped in the air on tall 
arches, he may inspect miles of upper bedrooms through 
the open windows, but the lower half of the houses is under 



his level and out of sight. Similarly, in high-river stage, 
in the New Orleans region, the water is up to the top of the 
enclosing levee-rim, the flat country behind it lies low — 
representing the bottom of a dish — and as the boat swims 
along, high on the flood, one looks down upon the houses 
and into the upper windows. There is nothing but that 
frail breastwork of earth between the people and destruc- 

The old brick salt-warehouses clustered at the upper end 
of the city looked as they had always looked ; warehouses 


which had had a kind of Aladdin's lamp experience, how- 
ever, since I had seen them ; for when the war broke out 
the proprietor went to bed one night leaving them packed 
with thousands of sacks of vulgar salt, worth a couple of 
dollars a sack, and got up in the morning and found his 
mountain of salt turned into a mountain of gold, so to speak, 


so suddenly and to so dizzy a height had the war news sent 
up the price of the article. 

The vast reach of plank wharves remained unchanged, 
and there were as many ships as ever : but the long array 
of steamboats had vanished ; not altogether, of course, but 
not much of it was left. 

The city itself had not changed — to the eye. It had 
greatly increased in spread and population, but the look of 
the town was not altered. The dust, waste-paper-littered, 
was still deep in the streets ; the deep, trough-like gutters 
alongside the curb-stones were still half full of reposeful 
water with a dusty surface ; the sidewalks were still — in 
the sugar and bacon region — incumbered by casks and bar- 
rels and hogsheads ; the great blocks of austerely plain com- 
mercial houses were as dusty-looking as ever. 

Canal Street was finer, and more attractive and stirring 
than formerly, with its drifting crowds of people, its several 
processions of hurrying street-cars, and — toward evening — 
its broad second-story verandas crowded with gentlemen and 
ladies clothed according to the latest mode. 

Not that there is any " architecture" in Canal Street: to 
speak in broad, general terms, there is no architecture in 
New Orleans, except in the cemeteries. It seems a strange 
thing to say of a wealthy, far-seeing, and energetic city of a 
quarter of a million inhabitants, but it is true. There is a 
huge granite U. S. Custom-house — costly enough, genuine 
enough, but as a decoration it is inferior to a gasometer. It 
looks like a state prison. But it was built before the war. 
Architecture in America may be said to have been born since 
the war. New Orleans, I believe, has had the good luck — 
and in a sense the bad luck — to have had no great fire in 
late years. It must be so. If the opposite had been the case, 
I think one would be able to tell the " burnt district " by the 
radical improvement in its architecture over the old forms. 
One can do this in Boston and Chicago. The " burnt dis- 
trict " of Boston was commonplace before the fire ; but now 



there is no commercial district in any city in the world that 
can surpass it — or perhaps even rival it — in beauty, . ele- 
gance, and tastefulness. 

However, New Orleans has begun — just this moment, as 
one may say. When completed, the new Cotton Exchange 
will be a stately and beautiful building ; massive, substantial, 
full of architectural graces ; no shams or false pretences or 
uglinesses about it anywhere. To the city, it will be worth 
many times its cost, for it will breed its species. What 
has been lacking hitherto, was a model to build toward ; 
something to educate eye and taste ; a suggester, so to speak. 

The city is well outfitted with progressive men — thinking, 
sagacious, long-headed men. The contrast between the spirit 
of the city and the city's architecture is like the contrast 
between waking and sleep. Apparently there is a " boom " 
in everything but that one dead feature. The water in the 
gutters used to be stagnant and slimy, and a potent disease- 
breeder ; but the gutters are flushed now, two or three times 
a day, by powerful machinery ; in many of the gutters the 
water never stands still, but has a steady current. Other san- 
itary improvements have been made ; and with such effect 
that New Orleans claims to be (during the long intervals 
between the occasional yellow-fever assaults) one of the 
healthiest cities in the Union. There 's plenty of ice now 
for everybody, manufactured in the town. It is a driving 
place commercially, and has a great river, ocean, and rail- 
way business. At the date of our visit, it was the best lighted 
city in the Union, electrically speaking. The New Orleans 
electric lights were more numerous than those of New York, 
and very much better. One had this modified noonday not 
only in Canal and some neighboring chief streets, but all 
along a stretch of five miles of river frontage. There are 
good clubs in the city now — several of them but recently 
organized — and inviting modern-style pleasure resorts at 
West End and Spanish Fort. The telephone is everywhere. 
One of the most notable advances is in journalism. The 



newspapers, as I remember them, were not a striking feature. 
Now they are. Money is spent upon them with a free hand. 
They get the news, let it cost what it may. The editorial 

work is not hack- 
grinding, but lit- 
west end. erature. As an 

example of New 
Orleans journalistic achievement, it may be mentioned that 
the "Times-Democrat" of August 26, 1882, contained a. 
report of the year's business of the towns of the Mississippi 
Valley, from New Orleans all the way to St. Paul — two 
thousand miles. That issue of the paper consisted of forty 
pages ; seven columns to the page ; two hundred and eighty 
columns in all ; fifteen hundred words to the column ; an 
aggregate of four hundred and twenty thousand words. That 
is to say, not much short of three times as many words as 
there are in this book. One may with sorrow contrast this 
with the architecture of New Orleans. 

I have been speaking of public architecture only. The 


domestic article in New Orleans is reproachless, notwith- 
standing it remains as it always was. All the dwellings are 
of wood — in the American part of the town, I mean — and 
all have a comfortable look. Those in the wealthy quarter 
are spacious ; painted snow-white usually, and generally 
have wide verandas, or double-verandas, supported by orna- 
mental columns. These mansions stand in the centre of 
large grounds, and rise, garlanded with roses, out of the 
midst of swelling masses of shining green foliage and many- 
colored blossoms. No houses could well be in better har- 
mony with their surroundings, or more pleasing to the eye, 
or more home-like and comfortable-looking. 

One even becomes reconciled to the cistern presently ; this 
is a mighty cask, painted green, and sometimes a couple of 
stories high, which is propped against the house-corner on 
stilts. There is a mansion-and-brewery suggestion about the 
combination which seems very incongruous at first. But 
the people cannot have wells, and so they take rain-water. 
Neither can they conveniently have cellars, or graves; 1 the 
town being built upon " made " ground ; so they do without 
both, and few of the living complain, and none of the others. 

x The Israelites are buried in graves — by permission, I take it, not require- 
ment; but none else, except the destitute, who are buried at public expense. 
The graves are but three or four feet deep. 



THEY bury their dead in vaults, above the ground. 
These vaults have a resemblance to houses — some- 
times to temples ; are built of marble, generally ; are architec- 


turally graceful and shapely ; they face the "walks and drive- 
ways of the cemetery ; and when one moves through the midst 
of a thousand or so of them and sees their white roofs and scabies 




stretching into the distance on every hand, the phrase " city 
of the dead " has all at once a meaning to him. Many of the 
cemeteries are beautiful, and are kept in perfect order. 
When one goes from the levee or the business streets near 
it, to a cemetery, he observes to himself that if those people 
down there would live as neatly while they are alive as they 
do after they are dead, they would find many advantages 
in it ; and besides, their quarter would be the wonder and 
admiration of the business world. Fresh flowers, in vases of 
water, are to be seen at the portals of many of the vaults : 
placed there by the pious hands of bereaved parents and 
children, husbands and wives, and renewed daily. A milder 
form of sorrow finds its inexpensive and lasting remembrancer 
in the coarse and ugly but indestructible "immortelle" — 
which is a wreath or cross or some such emblem, made of 
rosettes of black linen, with sometimes a yellow rosette at the 
conjunction of the cross's bars, — kind of sorrowful breast- 
pin, so to say. The immortelle requires no attention : you 
just hang it up, and there you are ; just leave it alone, it will 



take care of your grief for you, and keep it in mind better 
than you can ; stands weather first-rate, and lasts like 

On sunny days, pretty little chameleons — gracefullest of 
legged reptiles — creep along the marble fronts of the vaults, 
and catch flies. Their changes of 
color — as to variety — are not up 
to the creature's reputation. They 
change color when a person comes 
along and hangs up an immor- 
telle ; but that is nothing : any 
right-feeling reptile would do that. 

I will gradually drop this subject 
of graveyards. I have been trying 
all I could to get down to the senti- 
mental part of it, but I cannot 
accomplish it. I think 
there is no genuinely 
sentimental part 


ghastly, horrible. 
Graveyards may 
have been justi- 
fiable in the by- 
gone ages, when 
nobody knew that 
for every dead body put into the ground, to glut the earth 
and the plant-roots and the air with disease-germs, five or 
fifty, or maybe a hundred, persons must die before their 
proper time; but they are hardly justifiable now, when 
even the children know that a dead saint enters upon 
a century-long career of assassination the moment the 


earth closes over his corpse. It is a grim sort of a thought. 
The relics of St. Anne, up in Canada, have now, after 
nineteen hundred years, gone to curing the sick by the 
dozen. But it is merest matter-of-course that these same 
relics, within a generation after St. Anne's death and burial, 
made several thousand people sick. Therefore these miracle- 
performances are simply compensation, nothing more. St. 
Anne is somewhat slow pay, for a Saint, it is true ; but better 
a debt paid after nineteen hundred years, and outlawed by 
the statute of limitations, than not paid at all ; and most of 
the knights of the halo do not pay at all. Where you 
find one that pays — like St. Anne — you find a hundred and 
fifty that take the benefit of the statute. And none of them 
pay any more than the principal of what they owe — they 
pay none of the interest either simple or compound. A 
Saint can never quite return the principal, however; for his 
dead body hills people, whereas his relics heal only — they 
never restore the dead to life. That part of the account is 
always left unsettled. 

" Dr. F. Julius Le Moyne, after fifty years of medical practice, 
wrote : ' The inhumation of human bodies, dead from infectious 
diseases, results in constantly loading the atmosphere, and polluting 
the waters, with not only the germs that rise from simply putrefac- 
tion, but also with the specific germs of the diseases from which 
death resulted.' 

" The gases (from buried corpses) will rise to the surface through 
eight or ten feet of gravel, just as coal-gas will do, and there is 
practically no limit to their power of escape. 

" During the epidemic in New Orleans in 1853, Dr. E. H. Barton 
reported that in the Fourth District the mortality was four hundred 
and fifty-two per thousand — more than double that of any other. 
In this district were three large cemeteries, in which during the 
previous year more than three thousand bodies had been buried. 
In other districts the proximity of cemeteries seemed to aggravate 
the disease. 

"In 1828 Professor Bianchi demonstrated how the fearful reap- 
pearance of the plague at Modena was caused by excavations in 




G !l 

ground where, three hundred years previously the victims of the pes- 
tilence had been buried. Mr. Cooper, in explaining the causes of 
some epidemics, remarks that the opening of 
the plague burial-grounds at Eyam resulted 
in an immediate outbreak of disease." — North 
American Review, No. 3, Vol. 135. 

In an ad- 
dress be- 
fore the 



>,(-! Society, 

in advocacy 

of cremation, 

Dr. Charles W. 

Purdy made some 

striking comparisons 

what a burden is laid 

iety by the burial of 

relics. " One. and one-fourth times more money is 

expended annually in funerals in the United 
States than the Government expends for public-school purposes. 
Funerals cost this country in 1880 enough money to pay the liabil- 
ities of all the commercial failures in the United States during the 
same year, and give each bankrupt a capital of $8,630 with which 
to resume business. Funerals cost annually more money than the 
value of the combined gold and silver yield of the United States 
in the year 1880! These figures do not include the sums invested 
in burial-grounds and expended in tombs and monuments, nor the 
loss from depreciation of property in the vicinity of cemeteries." 



For the rich, cremation would answer as well as burial; 
for the ceremonies connected with it could be made as costly 
and ostentatious as a Hindoo suttee; while for the poor, 
cremation would be better than burial, because so cheap 1 — 
so cheap until the poor got to imitating the rich, which 
they Avould do by and by. The adoption of cremation would 
relieve us of a muck of threadbare burial-witticisms ; but, on 
the other hand, it would resurrect a lot of mildewed old 
cremation-jokes that have had a rest for two thousand years. 

I have a colored acquaintance who earns his living by odd 
jobs and heavy manual labor. He never earns above four 
hundred dollars in a year, and as he has a wife and several 
young children, the closest scrimping is necessary to get 
him through to the end of the twelve months debtless. To 
such a man a funeral is a colossal financial disaster. While 
I was writing one of the preceding chapters, this man lost 
a little child. He walked the town over with a friend, trying 
to find a coffin that was within his means. He bought the 
very cheapest one he could find, plain wood, stained. It cost 
him twenty-six dollars. It would have cost less than four, 
probably, if it had been built to put something useful into. 
He and his family will feel that outlay a good many 

1 Four or five dollars is the minimum cost. 




ABOUT the same time, I encountered a man in the street, 
whom I had not seen for six or seven years ; and 
something like this talk followed. I said, — 

" But you used to look sad and oldish ; you don't now. 
Where did you get all this youth and bubbling cheerfulness ? 

Give me the 

He chuckled 
blithely, took 
off his shining 
tile> pointed to 
a notched pink 
circlet of pa- 
per pasted in- 
to its crown, 
with something- 
lettered on it, 
and went on 
chuckling while 
I read, " J. B— , 


Then he clapped 
his hat on, gave 
it an irreverent tilt to leeward, and cried out, — 

" That 's what 's the matter ! It used to be rough times 
with me when you knew me — insurance-agency business, 
you know; mighty irregular. Big fire, all right — brisk 




trade for ten days while people scared ; after that, dull 
policy-business till next lire. Town like this don't have 
fires often enough — a fellow strikes so many dull weeks in 
a row that he gets discouraged. But you bet you, this is the 
business ! People don't wait for examples to die. No, sir, 
they drop off right along — there ain't any dull spots in the 
undertaker line. I just started in with two or three little 
old coffins and a hired hearse, and now look at the thing ! 
I 've worked up a business here that would satisfy any man, 
don't care who he is. Five years ago, lodged in an attic ; 
live in a swell house now, with a mansard roof, and all the 
modern inconveniences." 

" Does a coffin pay so well ? Is there much profit on a 

"6ro-way! How 
you talk!" Then, 
with a confiden- 
tial wink, a drop- 
ping of the voice, 
and an impressive 
laying of his hand 
on my arm; 
"Look here; 
there's one thing 
in this world 
which isn't ever 
cheap. That 's a 
coffin. There 's 
one thing in this 
world which a 
person don't ever 
try to jew you 
down on. That's 

a coffin. There 's one thing in this world which a person 
don't say, — < I '11 look around a little, and if I find I can't 
do better I'll come back and take it.' That's a coffin. 



There 's one thing in this world which a person won't take 
in pine if he can go walnut ; and won't take in walnut if 
he can go mahogany ; and won't take in mahogany if he can 
go an iron casket with silver door-plate and bronze handles. 
That 's a coffin. And there 's one thing in this world which 
you don't have to worry around after a person to get him to 
pay for. And that's a coffin. Undertaking? — why it's the 
dead-surest business in Christendom, and the nobbiest. 

" Why, just look at it. A rich man won't have anything 
but your very best ; and you can just pile it on, too — pile it 
on and sock it to him — he won't ever holler. And you take 
in a poor man, and if you work him right he '11 bust himself 
on a single lay-out. Or especially a woman. F'r instance : 
Mrs. 0' Flaherty comes in — widow — wiping her eyes and 
kind of moaning. Unhandkerchiefs one eye, bats it around 
tearfully over the stock ; says, — 

" ' And fhat might ye ask for that wan ? ' 

" ' Thirty-nine dollars, madam,' says I. 

" ' It 's a foine big price, sure, but Pat shall be buried like 
a gintleman, as he was, if I have to work me fingers off for 
it. I '11 have that wan, sor.' 

" ' Yes, madam,' says I, ' and it is a very good one, too ; 
not costly, to be sure, but in this life we must cut our gar- 
ment to our clothes, as the saying is.' And as she starts 
out, I heave in, kind of casually, ' This one with the white 
satin lining is a beauty, but I am afraid — well, sixty-five 
dollars is a rather — rather — but no matter, I felt obliged 
to say to Mrs. O'Shaughnessy, — ' 

" ' D' ye mane to soy that Bridget O'Shaughnessy bought 
the mate to that joo-ul box to ship that dhrunken divil to 
Purgatory in ? ' 

" ' Yes, madam.' 

"'Then Pat shall go to heaven in the twin to it, if it 
takes the last rap the 0' Flaherties can raise ; and moind 
you, stick on some extras, too, and I '11 give ye another 



" And as I lay-in with the livery stables, of course I don't 
forget to mention that Mrs. O'Shaughnessy hired fifty-four 
dollars' worth 
of hacks and 
flung as much 
style into Den- 
nis's funeral as 
if he had been 
a duke or an 
assassin. And 
of course she 
sails in and goes 
the O'Shaugh- 
nessy about 
four hacks and 
an omnibus bet- 
ter. That used 
to be, but that's 
all played now ; 
that is, in this 
particular town. 

The Irish got to piling up hacks so, on their funerals, that a 
funeral left them ragged and hungry for two years after- 
ward ; so the priest pitched in and broke it all up. He don't 
allow them to have but two hacks now, and sometimes only 

" Well," said I, " if you are so light-hearted and jolly in 
ordinary times, what must you be in an epidemic ? " 

He shook his head. 

"No, you're off, there. We don't like to see an epidemic. 
An epidemic don't pay. Well, of course 1 don't mean that, 
exactly ; but it don't pay in proportion to the regular thing. 
Don't it occur to you, why ? " 

" No." 

" Think." 

" I can't imagine. What is it ? " 




" It 's just two things." 
"Well, what are they?" 
"One's Embamming." 
" And what 's the other ? " 

" How is that ? " 

" Well, in ordinary times, a person dies, and we lay him 
up in ice ; one day, two days, maybe three, to wait for friends 

to come. Takes a lot 
of it — melts fast. We 
charge jewelry rates 
for that ice, and war- 
prices for attendance. 
Well, don't you know, 
when there 's an epi- 
demic, they rush 'em 
to the cemetery the 
minute the breath's 
out. No market for 
ice in an epidemic. 
Same with Embam- 
ming. You take a 
family that 's able to 
embam, and you 've 
got a soft thing. You 
can mention sixteen 
different ways to do 
it — though there ain't only one or two ways, when you come 
down to the bottom facts of it — and they '11 take the highest- 
priced way, every time. It 's human nature — human nature 
in grief. It don't reason, you see. 'Time being, it don't care 
a dam. All it wants is physical immortality for deceased, 
and they 're willing to pay for it. All you 've got to do is to 
just be ca'm and stack it up — they'll stand the racket. 
Why, man, you can take a defunct that you could n't give 
away ; and get your embamming traps around you and go to 



work ; and in a couple of hours he is worth a cool six hun- 
dred — that's what he's worth. There ain't anything equal 
to it but trading rats for di'monds in time of famine. Well, 
don't you see, when there 's an epidemic, people don't wait 
to embam. No, indeed they don't ; and it hurts the business 
like hellth, as we say — hurts it like hell-th, health, see? — 
Our little joke in the trade. Well, I must be going. Give 
me a call whenever you need any — I mean, when you're 
going by, sometime." 

In his joyful high spirits, he did the exaggerating himself, 
if any has been done. 1 have not enlarged on him. 

With the above brief references to inhumation, let us leave 
the subject. As for me, I hope to be cremated. I made 
that remark to my pastor once, who said, with what he 
seemed to think was an impressive manner, — 

" I would n't worry about that, if I had your chances." 

Much he knew about it — the family all so opposed to it. 



THE old French part of New Orleans — anciently the 
Spanish part — bears no resemblance to the American 
end of the city : the American end which lies beyond the 
intervening brick business-centre. The houses are massed 
in blocks ; are austerely plain and dignilied ; uniform of 
pattern, with here and there a departure from it with pleas- 
ant effect ; all are plastered on the outside, and nearly all 
have long, iron-railed verandas running along the several 
stories. Their chief beauty is the deep, warm, varicolored 
stain with which time and the weather have enriched the 
plaster. It harmonizes with all the surroundings, and has 
as natural a look of belonging there as has the flush upon 
sunset clouds. This charming decoration cannot be suc- 
cessfully imitated; neither is it to be found elsewhere in 

The iron railings are a specialty, also. The pattern is 
often exceedingly light and dainty, and airy and graceful 
— ■ with a large cipher or monogram in the centre, a delicate 
cobweb of baffling, intricate forms, wrought in steel. The 
ancient railings are hand-made, and are now comparatively 
rare and proportionately valuable. They are become bric- 

The party had the privilege of idling through this ancient 
quarter of New Orleans with the South's finest literary genius, 
the author of " the Grandissimes." In him the South has 
found a masterly delineator of its interior life and its his- 
tory. In truth, I find by experience, that the untrained eye 



and vacant mind can inspect it and learn of it and judge of 
it more clearly and profitably in his books than by personal 
contact with it. 


With Mr. Cable along to see for you, and describe and 
explain and illuminate, a jog through that old quarter is a 
vivid pleasure. And you have a vivid sense as of unseen or 
dimly seen things — vivid, and yet fitful and darkling : you 
glimpse salient features, but lose the fine shades or catch 
them imperfectly through the vision of the imagination : a 
case, as it were, of ignorant near-sighted stranger traversing 


the rim of wide vague horizons of Alps with an inspired and 
enlightened long-sighted native. 

We visited the old St. Louis Hotel, now occupied by muni- 
cipal offices. There is nothing strikingly remarkable about 
it ; but one can say of it as of the Academy of Music in New 
York, that if a broom or a shovel has ever been used in it 
there is no circumstantial evidence to back up the fact. It 
is curious that cabbages and hay and things do not grow in 
the Academy of Music ; but no doubt it is on account of the 
interruption of the light by the benches, and the impossi- 
bility of hoeing the crop except in the aisles. The fact that 
the ushers grow their buttonhole-bouquets on the premises 
shows what might be done if they had the right kind of an 
agricultural head to the establishment. 

We visited also the venerable Cathedral, and the pretty 
square in front of it ; the one dim with religious light, the 
other brilliant with the worldly sort, and lovely with orange 
trees and blossomy shrubs ; then we drove in the hot sun 
through the wilderness of houses and out on to the wide 
dead level beyond, where the villas are, and the water wheels 
to drain the town, and the commons populous with cows and 
children ; passing by an old cemetery where we were told lie 
the ashes of an early pirate ; but we took him on trust, and 
did not visit him. He was a pirate with a tremendous and 
sanguinary history ; and as long as he preserved unspotted, 
in retirement, the dignity of his name and the grandeur of 
his ancient calling, homage and reverence were his from 
high and low ; but when at last he descended into politics 
and became a paltry alderman, the public " shook" him, and 
turned aside and wept. When he died, they set up a monu- 
ment over him ; and little by little he has come into respect 
again ; but it is respect for the pirate, not the alderman, 
To-day the loyal and generous remember only what he was, 
and charitably forget what he became. 

Thence, we drove a few miles across a swamp, along a 
raised shell road, with a canal on one hand and a dense 



wood on the other ; and here and there, in the distance, a 
ragged and angular-limbed and moss-bearded cypress, top 
standing out, clear cut against the sky, and as quaint of 
form as the apple-trees in Japanese pictures — such was our 
course and the surroundings of it. There was an occasional 
alligator swimming comfortably along in the canal, and an 


occasional picturesque colored person on the bank, flinging' 
his statue-rigid reflection upon the still water and watching 
for a bite. 

And by and by we reached the West End, a collection of 
hotels of the usual light summer-resort pattern, with broad 
verandas all around, and the waves of the wide and blue 
Lake Pontchartrain lapping the thresholds. We had dinner 
on a ground-veranda over the water — the chief dish the 
renowned fish called the pompano, delicious as the less 
criminal forms of sin. 

Thousands of people come by rail and carriage to West 
End and to Spanish Fort every evening, and dine, listen to 



the bands, take strolls in the open air under the electric 
lights, go sailing on the lake, and entertain themselves in 
various and sundry other ways. 

We had opportunities on other days and in other places 
to test the pompano. Notably, at an editorial dinner at one 
of the clubs in the city. He was in his last possible per- 


fection there, and justified his fame. In his suite was a 
tall pyramid of scarlet cray-fish — large ones ; as large as 
one's thumb ; delicate, palatable, appetizing. Also devilled 
whitebait : also shrimps of choice quality ; and a platter of 
small soft-shell crabs of a most superior breed. The other 
disbes were what one might get at Delmonico's, or Bucking- 
ham Palace ; those I have spoken of can be had in similar 
perfection in New Orleans only, I suppose. 

In the West and South they have a new institution, — the 
Broom Brigade. It is composed of young ladies who dress 
in a uniform costume, and go through the infantry drill, with 
broom in place of musket. It is a very pretty sight, on pri- 



vate view. When they perform on the stage of a theatre, in 
the blaze of colored fires, it must be a fine and fascinating 
spectacle. I saw them go through their complex manual 


with grace, spirit, and admirable precision. I saw them do 
everything which a human being can possibly do with a 
broom, except sweep. I did not see them sweep. But I 
know they could learn. What they have already learned 
proves that. And if they ever should learn, and should go 
on the war-path down Tchoupitoulas or some of those other 
streets around there, those thoroughfares would bear a 
greatly improved aspect in a very few minutes. But the 


girls themselves would n't; so nothing would be really 
gained, after all. 

The drill was in the Washington Artillery building. In 
this building we saw many interesting relics of the war. 
Also a fine oil-painting representing Stonewall Jackson's 
last interview with General Lee. Both men are on horse- 
back. Jackson has just ridden up, and is accosting Lee. 
The picture is very valuable, on account of the portraits, 
which are authentic. But, like many another historical 
picture, it means nothing without its label. And one label 
will fit it as well as another : — 

First Interview between Lee and Jackson. 

Last Interview between Lee and Jackson. 

Jackson Introducing Himself to Lee. 

Jackson Accepting Lee's Invitation to Dinner. 

Jackson Declining Lee's Invitation to Dinner — with 

Jackson Apologizing for a Heavy Defeat. 

Jackson Reporting a Great Victory. 

Jackson Asking Lee for a Match. 

It tells one story, and a sufficient one ; for it says quite 
plainly and satisfactorily, " Here are Lee and Jackson to- 
gether." The artist would have made it tell that this is 
Lee and Jackson's last interview if he could have done it. 
But he could n't, for there was n't any way to do it. A good 
legible label is usually worth, for information, a ton of sig- 
nificant attitude and expression in a historical picture. In 
Rome, people with fine sympathetic natures stand up and 
weep in front of the celebrated " Beatrice Cenci the Day 
before her Execution." It shows what a label can do. If 
they did not know the picture, they would inspect it un- 
moved, and say, " Young girl with hay fever ; young girl 
with her head in a bag." 

I found the half-forgotten Southern intonations and elisions 
as pleasing to my ear as they had formerly been. A South- 
erner talks music. At least it is music to me, but then I 



was born in the South. The educated Southerner has no 
use for an r, except at the beginning of a word. He says 
" honah," and " dinnah," and " Gove'nuh," and " befo' the 
waw," and so on. The words may lack charm to the eye, in 
print, but they have it to the ear. When did the r disappear 
from Southern speech, and how 
did it come to disappear ? The 
custom of dropping it was not 
borrowed from the North, nor 
inherited from England. Many 
Southerners — most Southern- 
ers — put a y into occasional 
words that begin with the k 
sound. For instance, they say 
Mr. K'yahtah (Carter) and 
speak of playing k'yahds or of 
riding in the k'yahs. And they 
have the pleasant custom — long 
ago fallen into decay in the 
North — of frequently employ- 
ing the respectful " Sir." In- 
stead of the curt Yes, and the 
abrupt No, they say " Yes, 
Suh " ; " No, Suh." 

But there are some infelici- 
ties. .Such as "like" for "as," 
and the addition of an " at " 
where it is n't needed. I heard 

an educated gentleman say, " Like the flag-officer did." 
cook or his butler would have said, " Like the flag-officer 
done." You hear gentlemen say, " Where have you been 
at ? " And here is the aggravated form — heard a ragged 
street Arab say it to a comrade : " I was a-ask'n' Tom whah 
you was a-sett'n' at." The very elect carelessly say " will " 
when they mean " shall " ; and many of them say, " I did n't 
go to do it," meaning " I did n't mean to do it." The North- 







ern word "guess" — imported from England, where it used 
to be common, and now regarded by satirical Englishmen as 
a Yankee original — is but little used among Southerners. 
They say " reckon." They have n't any " does n't " in their 
language ; they say " don't " instead. The unpolished often 
use " went " for " gone." It is nearly as bad as the Northern 
" had n't ought." This reminds me that a remark of a very 
peculiar nature was made here in my neighborhood (in the 
North) a few days ago : " He had n't ought to have went." 
How is that ? Is n't that a good deal of a triumph ? One 
knows the orders combined in this half-breed's architecture 
without inquiring : one parent Northern, the other Southern. 
To-day I heard a school-mistress ask, " Where is John gone ?" 
This form is so common — so nearly universal, in fact — that 
if she had used " whither " instead of " where," I think it 
would have sounded like an affectation. 

We picked up one excellent word — a word worth travel- 
ling to New Orleans to get ; a nice limber, expressive, handy 
word — " Lagniappe." They pronounce it laxmy-yap. It is 
Spanish — so they said. We discovered it at the head of a 
column of odds and ends in the Picayune, the first day ; 
heard twenty people use it the second ; inquired what it 
meant the third ; adopted it and got facility in swinging it 
the fourth. It has a restricted meaning, but I think the 
people spread it out a little when they choose. It is the 
equivalent of the thirteenth roll in a " baker's dozen." It 
is something thrown in, gratis, for good measure. The 
custom originated in the Spanish quarter of the city. When 
a child or a servant buys something in a shop — or even the 
mayor or the governor, for aught I know — he finishes the 
operation by saying, — 

" Give me something for lagniappe." 

The shopman always responds ; gives the child a bit of 
liquorice-root, gives the servant a cheap cigar or a spool of 
thread, gives the governor — I don't know what he gives the 
governor ; support, likely. 

"fob lagniappe." 



When you are invited to drink, — and this does occur now 
and then in New Orleans, — and you say, " What, again ? — 
no, I'ye had enough ; " the other party says, " But just this 
one time more, — this is for lagniappe." When the beau 
perceives that he is stacking his compliments a trifle too 
high, and sees by the young lady's countenance that the 
edifice would have been better with the top compliment left 
off, he puts his " I beg pardon, — no harm intended," into the 
briefer form of " Oh, that 's for lagniappe." If the waiter in 
the restaurant stumbles and spills a gill of coffee down the 
back of your neck, he says, " For lagniappe, sah," and gets 
you another cup without extra charge. 



IN the North one hears the war mentioned, in social conver- 
sation, once a month ; sometimes as often as once a week ; 
but as a distinct subject for talk, it has long ago been relieved 
of duty. There are sufficient reasons for this. Given a dinner 
company of six gentlemen to-day, it can easily happen that 
four of them — and possibly five — were not in the field at 
all. So the chances are four to two, or five to one, that the 
war will at no time during the evening become the topic of 
conversation ; and the chances are still greater that if it be- 
come the topic it will remain so but a little while. If you 
add six ladies to the company, you have added six people 
who saw so little of the dread realities of the war that they 
ran out of talk concerning them years ago, and now would 
soon weary of the war topic if you brought it up. 

The case is very different in the South. There, every man 
you meet was in the war ; and every lady you meet saw the 
war. The war is the great chief topic of conversation. The 
interest in it is vivid and constant ; the interest in other topics 
is fleeting. Mention of the war will wake up a dull com- 
pany and set their tongues going, when nearly any other 
topic would fail. In the South, the war is what A.D. is else- 
where : they date from it. All day long you hear things 
" placed " as having happened since the waw ; or du'in' the 
waw ; or befo' the waw ; or right aftah the waw ; or 'bout 
two yeahs or five yeahs or ten yeahs befo' the waw or aftah 
the waw. It shows how intimately every individual was 
visited, in his own person, by that tremendous episode. It 



gives the inexperienced stranger a better idea of what a vast 
and comprehensive calamity invasion is than he can ever get 
by reading books at the fireside. 

At a club one evening, a gentleman turned to me and said, 
in an aside : — 

" You notice, of course, that we are nearly always talking 
about the war. It is n't because we have n't anything else to 
talk about, but because 
nothing else has so strong 
an interest for us. And 
there is another reason : 
In the war, each of us, in 
his own person, seems to 
have sampled all the dif- 
ferent varieties of human 
experience ; as a conse- 
quence, you can't mention 
an outside matter of any 
sort but it will certainly 
remind some listener of 
something that happened 
during the war, — and out 
he comes with it. Of 
course that brings the talk 
back to the war. You 
may try all you want to, to 
keep other subjects before 
the house, and we may all 
join in and help, but there 
*can be but one result: the 
most random topic would 
load every man up with war 

reminiscences, and shut him up, too ; and talk would be likely 
to stop presently, because you can't talk pale inconseqnentiali- 
ties when you 've got a crimson fact or fancy in your head 
that vou are burnins; to fetch out." 



The poet was sitting some little distance away ; and pres- 
ently he began to speak — about the moon. 

The gentleman who had been talking to me remarked in 
an " aside : " " There, the moon is far enough from the seat 
of war, but you will see that it will suggest something to 
somebody about the war ; in ten minutes from now the 
moon, as a topic, will be shelved." 

The poet was saying he had noticed something which was 
a surprise to him; had had the impression that down here, 
toward the equator, the moonlight was much stronger and 
brighter than up North ; had had the impression that when 
he visited New Orleans, many years ago, the moon — 

Interruption from the other end of the room : — 

"Let me^explain that. Reminds me of an anecdote. Every- 
thing is changed since the war, for better or for worse ; but 
you '11 find people down here born grumblers, who see no 
change except the change for the worse. There was an old 
negro woman of this sort. A young New-Yorker said in her 
presence, ' What a wonderful moon you have down here ! ' 
She sighed and said, ' All, bless yo' heart, honey, you ought 
to seen dat moon befo' de waw ! ' " 

The new topic was dead already. But the poet resurrected 
it, and gave it a new start. 

A brief dispute followed, as to whether the difference be- 
tween Northern and Southern moonlight really existed or was 
only imagined. Moonlight talk drifted easily into talk about 
artificial methods of dispelling darkness. Then somebody 
remembered that when Farragut advanced upon Port Hud- 
son on a dark night — and did not wish to assist the aim of 
the Confederate gunners — he carried no battle-lanterns, bub 
painted the decks of his ships white, and thus created a 
dim but valuable light, which enabled his own men to 
grope their way around with considerable facility. At this 
point the war got the floor again — the ten minutes not quite 
up yet. 

I was not sorry, for war talk by men who have been in a 



war is always interesting ; where- 
moon talk by a poet who has 
not been in the moon is likely to 

We went to a cockpit in New 
Orleans on a Saturday afternoon. 
I had never seen a cock-fight be- 
fore. There were men and boys 
there of all ages and all colors, and of many languages and 
nationalities. But I noticed one quite conspicuous and sur- 
prising absence : the traditional brutal faces. There were no 
brutal faces. With no cock-fighting going on, you could have 
played the gathering on a stranger for a prayer-meeting ; and 
after it began, for a revival, — provided you blindfolded your 
stranger, — for the shouting was something prodigious. 


A negro and a white man were in the ring ; everybody 
else outside. The cocks were brought in in sacks; and when 
time was called, they were taken out by the two bottle-holders, 
stroked, caressed, poked toward each other, and finally lib- 
erated. The big black cock plunged instantly at the little 
gray one and struck him on the head with his spur. The 
gray responded with spirit. Then the Babel of many-tongucd 
shoutings broke out, and ceased not thenceforth. When 
the cocks had been fighting some little time, I was expecting 
them momently to drop dead, for both were blind, red with 
blood, and so exhausted that they frequently fell down. Yet 
they would not give up, neither would they die. The negro 
and the white man would pick them up every few seconds, 
wipe them off, blow cold water on them in a fine spray, and 
take their heads in their mouths and hold them there a mo- 
ment — to warm back the perishing life perhaps ; I do not 
know. Then, being set down again, the dying creatures would 
totter gropingly about, with dragging wings, find each other, 
strike a guess-work blow or two, and fall exhausted once 

I did not see the end of the battle. I forced myself to en- 
dure it as long as T could, but it was too pitiful a sight ; so 
I made frank confession to that effect, and we retired. We 
heard afterward that the black cock died in the ring, and 
fighting to the last. 

Evidently there is abundant fascination about this " sport " 
for such as have had a degree of familiarity with it. I never 
saw people enjoy anything more than this gathering enjoyed 
this fight. The case was the same with old gray-heads and 
with boys of ten. They lost themselves in frenzies of 
delight. The " cocking-main " is an inhuman sort of enter- 
tainment, there is no question about that ; still, it seems a 
much more respectable and far less cruel sport than fox- 
hunting — for the cocks like it; they experience, as well as 
confer enjoyment ; which is not the fox's case. 

We assisted — in the French sense — at a mule race, one 


day. I believe I enjoyed this contest more than any other 
mule there. I enjoyed it more than I remember having 
enjoyed any other animal race I ever saw. The grand 
stand was well filled with the beauty and the chivalry of 
New Orleans. That phrase is not original with me. It is 
the Southern reporter's. He has used it for two generations. 
He uses it twenty times a day, or twenty thousand times a 
day ; or a million times a day — according to the exigencies. 
He is obliged to use it a million times a day, if he have 
occasion to speak of respectable men and women that often ; 
for he has no other phrase for such service except that sin- 
gle one. He never tires of it ; it always has a fine sound 
to him. There is a kind of swell mediaeval bulliness and 
tinsel about it that pleases his gaudy barbaric soul. If he 
had been in Palestine in the early times, we should have 
had no references to " much people " out of him. No, he 
would have said " the beauty and the chivalry of Galilee " 
assembled to hear the Sermon on the Mount. It is likely 
that the men and women of the South are sick enough of 
that phrase by this time, and would like a change, but there 
is no immediate prospect of their getting it. 

The New Orleans editor has a strong, compact, direct, 
unflowery style : wastes no words, and does not gush. Not 
so with his average correspondent. In the Appendix I 
have quoted a good letter, penned by a trained hand ; but 
the average correspondent hurls a style which differs from 
that. For instance : — 

The " Times-Democrat " sent a relief-steamer up one of 
the bayous, last April. This: steamer landed at a village, 
up there somewhere, and the Captain invited some of the 
ladies of the village to make a short trip with him. They 
accepted and came aboard, and the steamboat shoved out 
up the creek. That was all there was " to it." And that 
is all that the editor of the " Times-Democrat " would have 
got out of it. There was nothing in the thing but statistics, 
and he would have g;ot nothing; else out of it. He would 



probably have even tabulated them, partly to secure perfect 
clearness of statement, and partly to save space. But his 

special correspond- 
ent knows other 
methods of hand- 
ling statistics. He 
just throws off all 
restraint and wal- 
lows in them : — 

" On Saturday, ear- 
ly in the morning, 
the beauty of the 
place graced our cab- 
in, and proud of her 
fair freight the gal- 
lant little boat glided 
up the bayou." 

Twenty -two 
words to say the 
ladies came aboard 
and the boat shoved 
out up the creek, 
is a clean waste of 
ten good words, and 
is also destructive 
of compactness of 

The trouble with 
guests. the Southern re- 

porter is — Women. 
They unsettle him ; they throw him off his balance. He is 
plain, and sensible, and satisfactory, until a woman heaves in 
sight. Then he goes all to pieces ; his mind totters, he 
becomes flowery and idiotic. From reading the above 
extract, you would imagine that this student of Sir Walter 


Scott is an apprentice, and knows next to nothing about 
handling a pen. On the contrary, he furnishes plenty of 
proofs, in his long letter, that he knows well enough how 
to handle it when the women are not around to give him 
the artificial-flower complaint. For instance : — 

" At 4 o'clock ominous clouds began to gather in the southeast, 
and presently from the Gulf there came a blow which increased in 
severity every moment. It was not safe to leave the landing then, 
and there was a delay. The oaks shook off long tresses of their 
mossy beards to the tugging of the wind, and the bayou in its ambi- 
tion put on miniature waves in mocking of much larger bodies of 
water. A lull permitted a start, and homewards we steamed, an inky 
sky overhead and a heavy wind blowing. As darkness crept on, there 
were few on board who did not wish themselves nearer home." 

There is nothing the matter with that. It is good descrip- 
tion, compactly put. Yet there was great temptation, there, 
to drop into lurid writing. 

But let us return to the mule. Since I left him, I have 
rummaged around and found a full report of the race. In 
it I find confirmation of the theory which I broached just 
now — -namely, that the trouble with the Southern reporter 
is Women : "Women, supplemented by Walter Scott and his 
knights and beauty and chivalry, and so on. This is an 
excellent report, as long as the women stay out of it. But 
when they intrude, we have this frantic result : — 

" It will be probably a long time before the ladies' stand presents 
such a sea of foam-like loveliness as it did yesterday. The New 
Orleans women are always charming, but never so much so as at this 
time of the year, when in their dainty spring costumes they bring 
with them a breath of balmy freshness and an odor of sanctity 
unspeakable. The stand was so crowded with them that, walking 
at their feet and seeing no possibility of approach, many a man 
appreciated as he never did before the Peri's feeling at the Gates of 
Paradise, and wondered what was the priceless boon that would 
admit him to their sacred presence. Sparkling on their white-robed 
breasts or shoulders were the colors of their favorite knights, and 



were it not for the fact that the doughty heroes appeared on unro- 
mantic mules, it would have heen easy to imagine one of King 
Arthur's gala-days." 

There were thirteen mules in the first heat ; all sorts of 
mules, they were ; all sorts of complexions, gaits, dispositions, 
aspects. Some were handsome creatures, some were not ; 
some were sleek, some had n't had their fur brushed lately ; 
some were innocently gay and frisky ; some were full of mal- 


ice and all unrighteousness ; guessing from looks, some of 
them thought the matter on hand was war, some thought 
it was a lark, the rest took it for a religious occasion. And 
each mule acted according to his convictions. The result 
was an absence of harmony well compensated by a conspic- 
uous presence of variety — variety of a picturesque and 
entertaining sort. 

All the riders were young gentlemen in fashionable soci- 
ety. If the reader has been wondering why it is that the 
ladies of New Orleans attend so humble an orgy as a mule- 



race, the thing is explained now. 
It is a fashion-freak ; all con- 
nected with it are people of 

It is great fun, and cordially 
liked. The mule-race is one of 
the marked occasions of the year. It has brought some 
pretty fast mules to the front. One of these had to be ruled 
out, because he was so fast that he turned the thing into a 
one-mule contest, and robbed it of one of its best features — 
variety. But every now and then somebody disguises him with 
a new name and a new* complexion, and rings him in again 

The riders dress in full jockey costumes of bright-colored 
silks, satins, and velvets. 


The thirteen mules got away in a body, after a couple of 
false starts, and scampered off with prodigious spirit. As 
each mule and each rider had a distinct opinion of his own 
as to how the race ought to be run, and which side of the 
track was best in certain circumstances, and how often the 
track ought to be crossed, and when a collision ought to be 
accomplished, and when it ought to be avoided, these twenty- 
six conflicting opinions created a most fantastic and pic- 
turesque confusion, and the resulting spectacle was killingly 

Mile heat ; time, 2:22. Eight of the thirteen mules dis- 
tanced. I had a bet on a mule which would have won if the 
procession had been reversed. The second heat was good 
fun ; and so was the " consolation race for beaten mules," 
which followed later ; but the first heat was the best in that 

I think that much the most enjoyable of all races is a 
steamboat race ; but, next to that, 1 prefer the gay and joy- 
ous mule-rush. Two red-hot steamboats raging along, neck- 
and-neck, straining every nerve — that is to say, every rivet 
in the boilers — quaking and shaking and groaning from 
stem to stern, spouting white steam from the pipes, pouring 
black smoke from the chimneys, raining down sparks, part- 
ing the river into long breaks of hissing foam — this is 
sport that makes a body's very liver curl with enjoyment. 
A horse-race is pretty tame and colorless in comparison. 
Still, a horse-race might be well enough, in its way, perhaps, 
if it were not for the tiresome false starts. But then, 
nobody is ever killed. At least, nobody was ever killed 
when I was at a horse-race. They have been crippled, it is 
true ; but this is little to the purpose. 



THE largest annual event in New Orleans is a something 
which we arrived too late to sample — the Mardi-Gras 
festivities. I saw the procession of the Mystic Crew of Comus 
there, twenty-four years ago — with knights and nobles and 
so on, clothed in silken and golden Paris-made gorgeous- 
nesses, planned and bought for that single night's use ; and 
in their train all manner of giants, dwarfs, monstrosities, 
and other diverting grotesquerie — a startling and wonderful 
sort of show, as it filed solemnly and silently down the 
street in the light of its smoking and flickering torches ; but 
it is said that in these latter days the spectacle is mightily 
augmented, as to cost, splendor, and variety. There is a 
chief personage — " Rex;" and if I remember rightly, neither 
this king nor any of his great following of subordinates is 
known to any outsider. All these people are gentlemen of 
position and consequence ; and it is a proud thing to belong 
to the organization ; so the mystery in which they hide their 
personality is merely for romance's sake, and not on account 
of the police. 

Mardi-Gras is of course a relic of the French and Spanish 
occupation ; but I judge that the religious feature has been 
pretty well knocked out of it now. Sir Walter has got the 
advantage of the gentlemen of the cowl and rosary, and 
he will stay. His mediaeval business, supplemented by the 
monsters and the oddities, and the pleasant creatures from 
fairy-land, is finer to look at than the poor fantastic inven- 
tions and performances of the revelling rabble of the priest's 




day, and serves quite as well, perhaps, to emphasize the day 
and admonish men that the grace-line between the worldly 
season and the holy one is reached. 


This Mardi-Gras pageant was the exclusive possession of 
New Orleans until recently. But now it has spread to Mem- 
phis and St. Louis and Baltimore. It has probably reached 
its limit. It is a thing which could hardly exist in the 


practical North ; would certainly last but a very brief time ; 
as brief a time as it would last in London. For the soul of 
it is the romantic, not the funny and the grotesque. Take 
away the romantic mysteries, the kings and knights and big- 
sounding titles, and Mardi-Gras would die, down there in 
the South. The very feature that keeps it alive in the South 
— girly-girly romance — would kill it in the North or in 
London. Puck and Punch, and the press universal, would 
fall upon it and make merciless fun of it, and its first exhi- 
bition would be also its last. 

Against the crimes of the French Revolution and of Bona- 
parte may be set two compensating benefactions : the Revo- 
lution broke the chains of the ancien regime and of the 
Church, and made of a nation of abject slaves a nation of 
freemen ; and Bonaparte instituted the setting of merit 
above birth, and also so completely stripped the divinity 
from royalty, that whereas crowned heads in Europe were 
gods before, they are only men, since, and can never be gods 
again, but only figure-heads, and answerable for their acts 
like common clay. Such benefactions as these compensate 
the temporary harm which Bonaparte and the Revolution 
did, and leave the world in debt to them for these great and 
permanent services to liberty, humanity, and progress. 

Then comes Sir Walter Scott with his enchantments, and 
by his single might checks this wave of progress, and even 
turns it back ; sets the world in love with dreams and phan- 
toms ; with decayed and swinish forms of religion ; with 
decayed and degraded systems of government ; with the 
sillinesses and emptinesses, sham grandeurs, sham gauds, 
and sham chivalries of a brainless and worthless long-van- 
ished society. He did measureless harm ; more real and 
lasting harm, perhaps, than any other individual that ever 
wrote. Most of the world has now outlived good part of 
these harms, though by no means all of them ; but in our 
South they flourish pretty forcefully still. Not so forcefully 
as half a generation ago, perhaps, but still forcefully. There, 



the genuine and whole- 
some civilization of the 
nineteenth century is 
curiously confused and 
commingled with the 
Walter Scott Middle-Age 
sham civilization and so 
you have practical, com- 
mon-sense, progressive ideas, and progressive works, mixed 
up with the duel, the inflated speech, and the jejune ro- 
manticism of an absurd past that is dead, and out of char- 
ity ought to be buried. But for the Sir Walter disease, 
the character of the Southerner — or Southron, accord- 
ing to Sir Walter's starchier way of phrasing it — would be 
wholly modern, in place of modern and mediaeval mixed, 


and the South would be fully a generation further advanced 
than it is. It was Sir Walter that made every gentleman in 
the South a Major or a Colonel, or a General or a Judge, 
before the war ; and it was he, also, that made these gentle- 
men value these bogus decorations. For it was he that 
created rank and caste down there, and also reverence for 
rank and caste, and pride and pleasure in them. Enough is 
laid on slavery, without fathering upon it these creations 
and contributions of Sir Walter. 

Sir Walter had so large a hand in making Southern char- 
acter, as it existed before the war, that he is in great measure 
responsible for the war. It seems a little harsh toward a 
dead man to say that we never should have had any war but 
for Sir Walter ; and yet something of a plausible argument 
might, perhaps, be made in support of that wild proposition. 
The Southerner of the American revolution owned slaves ; so 
did the Southerner of the Civil War : but the former resem- 
bles the latter as an Englishman resembles a Frenchman. 
The change of character can be traced rather more easily to 
Sir Walter's influence than to that of any other thing or 

One may observe, by one or two signs, how deeply that 
influence penetrated, and how strongly it holds. If one take 
up a Northern or Southern literary periodical of forty or 
fifty years ago, he will find it filled with wordy, windy, flow- 
ery " eloquence," romanticism, sentimentality — all imitated 
from Sir Walter, and sufficiently badly done, too — innocent 
travesties of his style and methods, in fact. This sort of lit- 
erature being the fashion in bcth sections of the country, 
there was opportunity for the fairest competition ; and as a 
consequence, the South was able to show as many well-known 
literary names, proportioned to population, as the North 

But a change has come, and there is no opportunity now 
for a fair competition between North and South. For the 
North has thrown out that old inflated style, whereas the 


Southern writer still clings to it — clings to it and has a 
restricted market for his wares, as a consequence. There is 
as much literary talent in the South, now, as ever there was, 
of course ; but its work can gain but slight currency under 
present conditions ; the authors write for the past, not the 
present ; they use obsolete forms, and a dead language. But 
when a Southerner of genius writes modern English, his 
book goes upon crutches no longer, but upon wings ; and 
they carry it swiftly all about America and England, and 
through the great English reprint publishing houses of Ger- 
many — as witness the experience of Mr. Cable and Uncle 
Remus, two of the very few Southern authors who do not 
write in the southern style. Instead of three or four widely- 
known literary names, the South ought to have a dozen or 
two — and will have them when Sir Walter's time is out. 

A curious exemplification of the power of a single book 
for good or harm is shown in the effects wrought by Don 
Quixote and those wrought by Ivanhoe. The first swept the 
world's admiration for the media? val chivalry-silliness out of 
existence ; and the other restored it. As far as our South is 
concerned, the good work done by Cervantes is pretty nearly 
a dead letter, so effectually has Scott's pernicious work 
undermined it. 



was to arrive from Atlanta at seven o'clock Sunday 
morning ; so we got up and received him. We were able to 
detect him among the crowd of arrivals at the hotel-counter 
by his correspondence with a description of him which had 
been furnished us from a trustworthy source. He was said 
to be undersized, red-haired, and somewhat freckled. He 
was the only man in the party whose outside tallied with this 
bill of particulars. He was said to be very shy. He is a shy 
man. Of this there is no doubt. It may not show on the 
surface, but the shyness is there. After days of intimacy 
one wonders to see that it is still in about as strong force as 
ever. There is a fine and beautiful nature hidden behind it, 
as all know who have read the Uncle Remus book ; and a 
fine genius, too, as all know by the same sign. I seem to 
be talking quite freely about this neighbor ; but in talking 
to the public I am but talking to his personal friends, and 
these things are permissible among friends. 

He deeply disappointed a number of children who had 
flocked eagerly to Mr. Cable's bouse to get a glimpse of the 
illustrious sage and oracle of the nation's nurseries. They 
said : — 

" Why, he 's white ! " 

They were grieved about it. So, to console them, the book 
was brought, that they might hear Uncle Remus's Tar-Baby 
story from the lips of Uncle Remus himself — or what, in 
their outraged eyes, was left of him. But it turned out that 



he had never read aloud to people, and was too shy to venture 
the attempt now. Mr. Cable and I read from books of ours, 

to show him what an easy 
trick it was ; but his immor- 
tal shyness was proof against 
even this sagacious strategy, 
so we had to read about Brer 
Rabbit ourselves. 

Mr. Harris ought to be able 
to read the negro dialect bet- 
ter than anybody else, for in 
the matter of writing it he is 
the only master the country 
has produced. Mr. Cable is 
the only master in the writing 
of French dialects that the 
country has produced ; and he 
reads them in perfection. It 
was a great treat to hear him 
read about Jean-ah Poquelin, 
and about Innerarity and his 
famous " pigshoo " represent- 
ing " Louisihanna i^-fusing 
to Hanter the Union," along 
with passages of nicely-shaded 
German dialect from a novel 
which was still in manuscript. 
It came out in conversation, 
that in two different instances 
Mr. Cable got into grotesque 
trouble by using, in his books, next-to-impossible French 
names which nevertheless happened to be borne by living 
and sensitive citizens of New-Orleans. His names were 
either inventions or were borrowed from the ancient and 
obsolete past, I do not now remember which ; but at any 
rate living bearers of them turned up, and were a good 




deal hurt at having attention directed to themselves and 
their affairs in so excessively public a manner. 


Mr. Warner and I had an experience of the same sort 
when we wrote the book called " The Gilded Age." There 
is a character in it called " Sellers." I do not remember 
what his first name was, in the beginning ; but anyway, Mr. 
Warner did not like it, and wanted it improved. He asked 
me if I was able to imagine a person named " Eschol 
Sellers." Of course I said I could not, without stimulants. 
He said that away out West, once, he had met, and contem- 
plated, and actually shaken hands with a man bearing that 
impossible name — " Eschol Sellers." He added, — 



" It was twenty years ago ; his name has probably carried 
him off before this ; and if it has n't, he will never see the 
book anyhow. We will confiscate his name. The name you 
are using is common, and therefore dangerous; there are 
probably a thousand Sellerses bearing it, and the whole 
horde will come after us ; but Eschol Sellers is a safe name 
— it is a rock." 

So we borrowed that name ; and when the book had been 
out about a week, one of the stateliest and handsomest and 
most aristocratic looking white men that ever lived, called 
around, with the most formidable libel suit in his pocket 
that ever — well, in brief, we got his permission to suppress 
an edition of ten million 1 copies of the book and change that 
name to " Mulberry Sellers " in future editions. 

1 Fibres taken from memory, and probably incorrect. Think it was more. 



ONE day, on the street, I encountered the man whom, of 
all men, I most wished to see — Horace Bixby; for- 
merly pilot under me — or rather, over me — now captain of 
the great steamer " City of Baton Rouge," the latest and 
swiftest addition to the Anchor Line. The same slender 
figure, the same tight curls, the same springy step, the same 
alertness, the same decision of eye and answering decision 
of hand, the same erect military bearing ; not an inch gained 
or lost in girth, not an ounce gained or lost in weight, not 
a hair turned. It is a curious thing, to leave a man thirty- 
five years old, and come back at the end of twenty-one years 
and find him still only thirty-five. I have not had an experi- 
ence of this kind before, I believe. There were some crow's- 
feet, but they counted for next to nothing, since they were 

His boat was just in. I had been waiting several days for 
her, purposing to return to St. Louis in her. The captain 
and I joined a party of ladies and gentlemen, guests of Major 
Wood, and went down the river fifty-four miles, in a swift 
tug, to ex-Governor Warmouth's sugar plantation. Strung 
along below the city, were a number of decayed, ram-shackly, 
superannuated old steamboats, not one of which had I ever 
seen before,, They had all been built, and worn out, and 
thrown aside, since I was here last. This gives one a real- 
izing sense of the frailness of a Mississippi boat and the 
briefness of its life. 


Six miles below town a fat and battered brick chimney, 
sticking above the magnolias and live-oaks, was pointed out 
as the monument erected by an appreciative nation to cele- 
brate the battle of New Orleans — Jackson's victory over the 
British, January 8, 1815. The war had ended, the two 
nations were at peace, but the news had not yet reached 
New Orleans. If we had had the cable telegraph in those 
days, this blood would not have been spilt, those lives would 
not have been wasted ; and better still, Jackson would prob- 
ably never have been president. We have gotten over the 
harms done us by the war of 1812, but not over some of 
those done us by Jackson's presidency. 

The Warmouth plantation covers a vast deal of ground, 
and the hospitality of the Warmouth mansion is graduated 
to the same large scale. We saw steam-plows at work, 
here, for the first time. The traction engine travels about 
on its own wheels, till it reaches the required spot; then it 
stands still and by means of a wire rope pulls the huge plow 
toward itself two or three hundred yards across the field, 
between the rows of cane. The thing cuts down into the 
black mould a foot and a half deep. The plow looks like 
a fore-and-aft brace of a Hudson river steamer, inverted. 
When the negro steersman sits on one end of it, that end 
tilts down near the ground, while the other sticks up high in 
air. This great see-saw goes rolling and pitching like a ship 
at sea, and it is not every circus rider that could stay on it. 

The plantation contains two thousand six hundred acres ; 
six hundred and fifty are in cane; and there is a fruitful 
orange grove of five thousand trees. The cane is cultivated 
after a modern and intricate scientific fashion, too elaborate 
and complex for me to attempt to describe; but it lost 
$40,000 last year. I forget the other details. However, 
this year's crop will reach ten or twelve hundred tons of 
sugar, consequently last year's loss will not matter. These 
troublesome and expensive scientific methods achieve a yield 
of a ton and a half, and from that to two tons, to the acre ; 



which is three or four times what the yield of an acre was in 
my time. 

The drainage-ditches were everywhere alive with little 
crabs— "fiddlers." One saw them scampering sidewise in 
every direction whenever they heard a disturbing noise. 
Expensive pests, these crabs ; for they bore into the levees, 
and ruin them. 

The great sugar-house was a wilderness of tubs and 
tanks and vats and filters, pumps, pipes, and machinery. 
The process of making sugar is exceedingly interesting. 
First, you heave your cane into the centrifugals and grind 
out the juice; then run it through the evaporating pan to 
extract the fibre ; then through the bone-filter to remove the 
alcohol ; then through the clarifying tanks to discharge the 
molasses ; then through the granulating pipe to condense it ; 
then through the vacuum pan to extract the vacuum. It is 
now ready for market. I have jotted these particulars down 
from memory. The thing looks simple and easy. Do not 
deceive yourself. To make sugar is really one of the most 
difficult things in the world. And to make it right, is next 
to impossible. If you will examine your own supply every 
now and then for a term of years, and tabulate the result, 
you will find that not two men in twenty can make sugar 
without getting sand into it. 

We could have gone down to the mouth of the river and 
visited Captain Eads' great work, the " jetties," where the 
river has been compressed between walls, and thus deepened 
to twenty-six feet ; but it was voted useless to go, since at 
this stage of the water everything would be covered up and 

We could have visited that ancient and singular burg, 
"Pilot-town," which stands on stilts in the water — so they 
say ; where nearly all communication is by skiff and canoe, 
even to the attending of weddings and funerals ; and where 
the littlest boys and girls are as handy with the oar as 
unamphibious children are with the velocipede. 



We could have done a number of other things ; but on 
account of limited time, we went back home. The sail up 
the breezy and sparkling river was a charming experience, 
and would have been satisfy ingiy sentimental and romantic 
but for the interruptions of the tug's pet parrot, whose tire- 
less comments upon the scenery and the guests were always 
this-worldly, and often profane. He had also a superabun- 


dance of the discordant, ear-splitting, metallic laugh common 
to his breed, — a machine-made laugh, a Frankenstein laugh, 
with the soul left out of it. He applied it to every senti- 
mental remark, and to every pathetic song. He cackled it 
out with hideous energy after " Home again, home again, 
from a foreign shore," and said he " wouldn't give a damn 
for a tug-load of such rot." Romance and sentiment can- 
not long survive this sort of discouragement ; so the singing 



and talking presently ceased ; which so delighted the parrot 
that he cursed himself hoarse for joy. 

Then the male members of the party moved to the fore- 
castle, to smoke and gossip. There were several old steam- 
boatmen along, and I learned from them a great deal of what 
had been happening to my former river friends during my 


long absence. I learned that a pilot whom I used to steer 
for is become a spiritualist, and for more than fifteen years 
has been receiving a letter every week from a deceased rela- 
tive, through a New York spiritualistic medium named Man- 
chester — postage graduated by distance : from the local 
post-office in Paradise to New York, five dollars ; from New 
York to St. Louis, three cents. I remember Mr. Manchester 



very well. I called on him once, ten years ago, with a 
couple of friends, one of whom wished to inquire after a 
deceased uncle. This uncle had lost his life in a peculiarly 
violent and unusual way, half a dozen years before : a cyclone 
blew him some three miles and knocked a tree down with 
him which was four feet through at the butt and sixty-five 
feet high. He did not survive this triumph. At the seance 
just referred to, my friend questioned his late uncle, through 
Mr. Manchester, and the late uncle wrote down his replies, 
using Mr. Manchester's hand and pencil for that purpose. 
The following is a fair example of the questions asked, and 
also of the sloppy twaddle in the way of answers, furnished 
by Manchester under the . pretence that it came from the 
spectre. If this man is not the paltriest fraud that lives, 
I owe him an apology : — 

Question. Where are } r ou ? 

Answer. In the spirit world. 

Q. Are you happy ? 

A. Very happy. Perfectly happy. 

Q. How do you amuse yourself ? 

A. Conversation with friends, and other spirits. 

Q. What else? 

A. Nothing else. Nothing else is necessary. 

Q. What do you talk about ? 

A. About how happy we are; and about friends left 
behind in the earth, and how to influence them for their 

Q. When your friends in the earth all get to the spirit 
land, what shall you have to talk about then? — nothing but 
about how happy you all are ? 

No reply. It is explained that spirits will not answer 
frivolous questions. 

Q. How is it that spirits that arc content to spend an 
eternity in frivolous employments, and accept it as happi- 
ness, are so fastidious about frivolous questions upon the 


No reply. 

Q. Would you like to come back ? 

A. No. 

Q. Would you say that under oath ? 

A. Yes. 

Q. What do you eat there ? 

A. We do not eat. 

Q. What do you drink ? 

A. We do not drink. 

Q. What do you smoke ? 

A. We do not smoke. 

Q. What do you read ? 

A. We do not read. 

Q. Do all the good people go to your place ? 

A. Yes. 

Q. You know my present way of life. Can you suggest 
any additions to it, in the way of crime, that will reasonably 
insure my going to some other place ? 

A. No reply. 

Q. When did you die ? 

A. I did not die, I passed away. 

Q. Very well, then, when did you pass away ? How long 
have you been in the spirit land ? 

A. We have no measurements of time here. 

Q. Though you may be indifferent and uncertain as to 
dates and times in your present condition and environment, 
this has nothing to do with your former condition. You had 
dates then. One of these is what I ask for. You departed 
on a certain day in a certain year. Is not this true ? 

A. Yes. 

Q. Then name the day of the month. 

(Much fumbling with pencil, on the part of the medium, 
accompanied by violent spasmodic jerkings of his head and 
body, for some little time. Finally, explanation to the effect 
that spirits often forget dates, such things being without 
importance to them.) 



Q. Then this one has actually forgotten the date of its 
translation to the spirit land ? 

This was granted to be the case. 

Q. This is very curious. Well, then, what year was it ? 

(More fumbling, jerking, idiotic spasms, on the part of the 
medium. Finally, explanation to the effect that the spirit 
has forgotten the year.) 

Q. This is indeed stupendous. Let me put one more ques- 
tion, one last question, to you, before we part to meet no 


more; — for even if I fail to avoid your asylum, a meeting 
there will go for nothing as a meeting, since by that time 
you will easily have forgotten me and my name : did you 
die a natural death, or were you cut off by a catastrophe ? 

A. (After long hesitation and many throes and spasms.) 
Natural death. 

This ended the interview. My friend told the medium that 



when his relative was in this poor world, he was endowed 
with an extraordinary intellect and an absolutely defectless 
memory, and it seemed a great pity that he had not been 
allowed to keep some shred of these for his amusement in 
the realms of everlasting contentment, and for the amaze- 
ment and admiration of the rest of the population there. 

This man had plenty of clients — has plenty yet. He 
receives letters from spirits located in every part of the 
spirit world, and delivers them all over this country through 
the United States mail. These letters are filled with advice 
— advice from " spirits " who don't know as much as a tad- 
pole — and this advice is religiously followed by the receivers. 
One of these clients was a man whom the spirits (if one may 
thus plurally describe the ingenious Manchester) were teach- 
ing how to contrive an improved railway car-wheel. It is 
coarse employment for a spirit, but it is higher and whole- 
somer activity than talking forever about " how happy we 



IN the course of the tug-boat gossip, it came out that out 
of every five of my former friends who had quitted the 
river, four had chosen farming as an occupation. Of course 
this was not because they were peculiarly gifted, agricultur- 
ally, and thus more likely to succeed as farmers than in 
other industries : the reason for their choice must be traced 
to some other source. Doubtless they chose farming because 
that life is private and secluded from irruptions of undesir- 
able strangers, — like the pilot-house hermitage. And doubt- 
less they also chose it because on a thousand nights of black 
storm and danger they had noted the twinkling lights of 
solitary farm-houses, as the boat swung by, and pictured to 
themselves the serenity and security and cosiness of such 
refuges at such times, and so had by and by come to dream 
of that retired and peaceful life as the one desirable thing 
to long for, anticipate, earn, and at last enjoy. 

But I did not learn that any of these pilot-farmers had 
astonished anybody with their successes. Their farms do 
not support them : they support their farms. The pilot- 
farmer disappears from the river annually, about the break- 
ing of spring, and is seen no more till next frost. Then he 
appears again, in damaged homespun, combs the hay-seed out 
of his hair, and takes a pilot-house berth for the winter. In 
this way he pays the debts which his farming has achieved 
during the agricultural season. So his river bondage is but 
half broken ; he is still the river's slave the hardest half of 
the vear. 


One of these men bought a farm, but did not retire to it. 
He knew a trick worth two of that. He did not propose 
to pauperize his farm by applying his personal ignorance to 
working it. No, he put the farm into the hands of an agri- 
cultural expert to be worked on shares — out of every three 
loads of corn the expert to have two and the pilot the third. 
But at the end of the season the pilot received no corn. The 
expert explained that his share was not reached. The farm 
produced only two loads. 

Some of the pilots whom I had known had had adventures ; 
— the outcome fortunate, sometimes, but not in all cases. 
Captain Montgomery, whom I had steered for when he was 
a pilot, commanded the Confederate fleet in the great battle 
before Memphis ; when his vessel went down, he swam 
ashore, fought his way through a squad of soldiers, and 
made a gallant and narrow escape. He was always a cool 
man ; nothing could disturb his serenity. Once when he was 
captain of the " Crescent City," I was bringing the boat into 
port at New Orleans, and momently expecting orders from 
the hurricane deck, but received none. I had stopped the 
wheels, and there my authority and responsibility ceased. It 
was evening — dim twilight — the captain's hat was perched 
upon the big bell, and I supposed the intellectual end of the 
captain was in it, but such was not the case. The captain 
was very strict ; therefore I knew better than to touch a 
bell without orders. My duty was to hold the boat steadily 
on her calamitous course, and leave the consequences to take 
care of themselves — which I did. So we went plowing past 
the sterns of steamboats and getting closer and closer — the 
crash was bound to come very soon — and still that hat never 
budged ; for alas, the captain was napping in the texas. . . . 
Things were becoming exceedingly nervous and uncomfort- 
able. It seemed to me that the captain was not going to 
appear in time to see the entertainment. But he did. Just 
as we were walking into the stern of a steamboat, he stepped 
out on deck, and said, with heavenly serenity, " Set her back 



on both" — which I did; but a trifle late, however, for the 
next moment we went smashing through that other boat's 
flimsy outer works with a most prodigious racket. The cap- 
tain never said a word to me about the matter afterwards, 
except to remark that I had done right, and that he hoped 
I would not hesitate to act in the same way again in like 

One of the pilots 
whom I had known 
when I was on the 
river had died a very 
honorable death. His 
boat caught fire, and 
he remained at the 
wheel until he got her 
safe to land. Then 
he went out over the 
breast-board with his 
clothing in flames, and 
was the last person to 
get ashore. He died 
from his injuries in 
the course of two or 
three hours, and his 
was the only life lost. 

The history of Mis- 
sissippi piloting af- 
fords six or seven in- 
stances of this sort of martyrdom, and 
half a hundred instances of escapes from 
a like fate which came within a second or two of being 
fatally too late ; but there is no instance of a pilot desert- 
ing his post to save his life while by remaining and sacri- 
ficing it he might secure other lives from destruction. It is 
well worth while to set down this noble fact, and well 
worth while to put it in italics, too. 


The " cub " pilot is early admonished to despise all perils 
connected with a pilot's calling, and to prefer any sort of 
death to the deep dishonor of deserting his post while there 
is any possibility of his being useful in it. And so effectively 
are these admonitions inculcated, that even young and but 
half-tried pilots can be depended upon to stick to the wheel, 
and die there when occasion requires. In a Memphis grave- 
yard is buried a young fellow who perished at the wheel a 
great many years ago, in White River, to save the lives of 
other men. He said to the captain that if the fire would 
give him time to reach a sand bar, some distance away, all 
could be saved, but that to land against the bluff bank of 
the river would be to insure the loss of many lives; He 
reached the bar and grounded the boat in shallow water ; 
but by that time the flames had closed around him, and in 
escaping through them he was fatally burned. He had been 
urged to fly sooner, but had replied as became a pilot to 
reply: — 

" I will not go. If I go, nobody will be saved ; if I stay, 
no one will be lost but me. I will stay." 

There were two hundred persons on board, and no life was 
lost but the pilot's. There used to be a monument to this 
young fellow, in that Memphis graveyard. While we tarried 
in Memphis on our down trip, I started out to look for it, 
but our time was so brief that I was obliged to turn back 
before my object was accomplished. 

The tug-boat gossip informed me that Dick Kennet was 
dead — blown up, near Memphis, and killed ; that several 
others whom I had known had fallen in the war — one or 
two of them shot down at the wheel ; that another and very 
particular friend, whom I had steered many trips for, had 
stepped out of his house in New Orleans, one night years 
ago, to collect some money in a remote part of the city, and 
had never been seen again, — was murdered and thrown into 
the river, it was thought ; that Ben Thornburgh was dead 
long ago ; also his wild " cub " whom I used to quarrel with, 



all through every daylight watch. A heedless, reckless 
creature he was, and always in hot water, always in mis- 
chief. An Arkansas passenger brought an enormous bear 
aboard, one day, and chained him to a life-boat on the hurri- 
cane deck. Thornburgh's " cub " could not rest till he had 
gone there and unchained the bear, to " see what he would 
do." He was promptly gratified. The bear chased him 


around and around the deck, for miles and miles, with two 
hundred eager faces grinning through the railings for au- 
dience, and finally snatched off the lad's coat-tail and went 
into the texas to chew it. The off-watch turned out with 
alacrity, and left the bear in sole possession. He presently 
grew lonesome, and started out for recreation. He ranged 



the whole boat — visited every part of it, with an advance 
guard of fleeing people in front of him and a voiceless 
vacancy behind him ; and when his owner captured him at 
last, those two were the only visible beings anywhere ; every- 
body else was in hiding, and the boat was a solitude. 

I was told that one of my pilot friends fell dead at the 
wheel, from heart disease, in 1869. The captain was on the 
roof at the time. He saw the boat breaking for the shore ; 


shouted, and got no answer ; ran up, and found the pilot 
lying dead on the floor. 

Mr. Bixby had been blown up, in Madrid bend ; was not 
injured, but the other pilot was lost. 

George Ritchie had been blown up near Memphis — blown 
into the river from the wheel, and disabled. The water was 
very cold ; he clung to a cotton bale — mainly with his 
teeth — and floated until nearly exhausted, when he was 
rescued by some deck hands who were on a piece of the 
wreck. They tore open the bale and packed him in the cot- 
ton, and warmed the life back into him, and got him safe 


to Memphis. He is one of Bixby's pilots on the " Baton 
Rouge " now. 

Into the life of a steamboat clerk, now dead, had dropped 
a bit of romance, — somewhat grotesque romance, but ro- 
mance nevertheless. When I knew him he was a shiftless 
young spendthrift, boisterous, good-hearted, full of careless 
generosities, and pretty conspicuously promising to fool 
his possibilities away early, and come to nothing. In a 
Western city lived a rich and childless old foreigner and 
his wife ; and in their family was a comely young girl — sort 
of friend, sort of servant. The young clerk of whom I have 
been speaking, — whose name was not George Johnson, but 
who shall be called George Johnson for the purposes of this 
narrative, — got acquainted with this young girl, and they 
sinned ; and the old foreigner found them out, and rebuked 
them. Being ashamed, they lied, and said they were married ; 
that they had been privately married. Then the old foreign- 
er's hurt was healed, and he forgave and blessed them. After 
that, they were able to continue their sin without concealment. 
By and by the foreigner's wife died ; and presently he followed 
after her. Friends of the family assembled to mourn ; and 
among the mourners sat the two young sinners. The will 
was opened and solemnly read. It bequeathed every penny 
of that old man's great wealth to Mrs. George Johnson ! 

And there was no such person. The young sinners fled 
forth then, and did a very foolish thing : married themselves 
before an obscure Justice of the Peace, and got him to ante- 
date the thing. That did no sort of good. The distant 
relatives flocked in and exposed the fraudful date with 
extreme suddenness and surprising ease, and carried off the 
fortune, leaving the Johnsons very legitimately, and legally, 
and irrevocably chained together in honorable marriage, but 
with not so much as a penny to bless themselves withal. 
Such are the actual facts ; and not all novels have for a base 
sO telling a situation. 



WE had some talk about Captain Isaiah Sellers, now 
many years dead. He was a fine man, a high- 
minded man, and greatly respected both ashore and on the 
river. He was very tall, well built, and handsome ; and in 
his old age — as I remember him — his hair was as black 
as an Indian's, and his eye and hand were as strong and 
steady and his nerve and judgment as firm and clear as 
anybody's, young or old, among the fraternity of pilots. He 
was the patriarch of the craft ; he had been a keelboat pilot 
before the day of steamboats ; and a steamboat pilot before 
any other steamboat pilot, still surviving at the time I speak 
of, had ever turned a wheel. Consequently his brethren held 
him in the sort of awe in which illustrious survivors of a by- 
gone age are always held by their associates. He knew how 
he was regarded, and perhaps this fact added some trifle of 
stiffening to his natural dignity, which had been sufficiently 
stiff in its original state. 

He left a diary behind him ; but apparently it did not date 
back to his first steamboat trip, which was said to be 1811, 
the year the first steamboat disturbed the waters of the Mis- 
sissippi. At the time of his death a correspondent of the 
" St. Louis Republican " culled the following items from the 
diary : — 

" In February, 1825, he shipped on board the steamer ' Eambler,' 
at Florence, Ala., and made during that year three trips to New 


Orleans and back, — this on the ' Gen. Carrol,' between Nashville 
and New Orleans. It was during his stay on this boat that Captain 
Sellers introduced the tap of the bell as a signal to heave the lead, 
previous to which time it was the custom for the pilot to speak to 
the men below when soundings were wanted. The proximity of 
the forecastle to the pilot-house, no doubt, rendered this an easy 
matter ; but how different on one of our palaces of the jjresent 

"In 1827 we find him on board the ' President,' a boat of two 
hundred and eighty-five tons burden, and plying between Smitldand 
and New Orleans. Thence he joined the ' Jubilee ' in 1828, and 
on this boat he did his first piloting in the St. Louis trade ; his first 
watch extending from Herculaneum to St. Genevieve. On May 26, 
1836, he completed and left Pittsburg in charge of the steamer 
' Prairie,' a boat of four hundred tons, and the first steamer with a 
state-room cabin ever seen at St. Louis. In 1857 he introduced the 
signal for meeting boats, and which has, with some slight change, 
been the universal custom of this day ; in fact, is rendered obligatory 
by act of Congress. 

" As general items of river history, we quote the following 
marginal notes from his general log : — 

" In March, 1825, Gen. Lafayette left New Orleans for St. Louis 
on the low-pressure steamer ' Natchez.' 

"In January, 1828, twenty-one steamers left the New Orleans 
wharf to celebrate the occasion of Gen. Jackson's visit to that city. 

" In 1830 the ' North American' made the run from New Orleans 
to Memphis in six days — best time on record to that date. It has 
since been made in two days and ten hours. 

"In 1831 the Red River cut-off formed. 

"In 1832 steamer ' Hudson ' made the run from White River to 
Helena, a distance of seventy-five miles, in twelve hours. This was 
the source of much talk and speculation among parties directly 

" In 1839 Great Horseshoe cut-off formed. 

" Up to the present time, a term of thirty-five years, we ascertain, 
by reference to the diary, he has made four hundred and sixty round 
trips to New Orleans, which gives a distance of one million one 
hundred and four thousand miles, or an average of eighty-six miles 
a day." 



Whenever Captain Sellers approached a body of gossiping 
pilots, a chill fell there, and talking ceased. For this reason : 
whenever six pilots were gathered together, there would 
always he one or two newly fledged ones in the lot, and the 
elder ones would be always " showing off " before these poor 


fellows ; making them sorrowfully feel how callow they were, 
how recent their nobility, and how humble their degree, by 
talking largely and vaporously of old-time experiences on 
the river ; always making it a point to date everything back 
as far as they could, so as to make the new men feel their 
newness to the sharpest degree possible, and envy the old 


stagers in the like degree. And how these complacent bald- 
heads would swell, and brag, and lie, and date back — ten, 
fifteen, twenty years, — and how they did enjoy the effect 
produced upon the marvelling and envying youngsters ! 

And perhaps just at this happy stage of the proceedings, 
the stately figure of Captain Isaiah Sellers, that real and only 
genuine Son of Antiquity, would drift solemnly into the midst. 
Imagine the size of the silence that would result on the in- 
stant. And imagine the feelings of those bald-heads, and the 
exultation of their recent audience when the ancient captain 
would begin to drop casual and indifferent remarks of a re- 
miniscent nature, — about islands that had disappeared, and 
cut-offs that had been made, a generation before the oldest 
bald-head in the company had ever set his foot in a pilot- 
house ! 

Many and many a time did this ancient mariner appear 
on the scene in the above fashion, and spread disaster and 
humiliation around him. If one might believe the pilots, he 
always dated his islands back to the misty dawn of river 
history ; and he never used the same island twice ; and 
never did he employ an island that still existed, or give one 
a name which anybody present was old enough to have heard 
of before. If you might believe the pilots, he was always 
conscientiously particular about little details ; never spoke 
of "the State of Mississippi," for instance, — no, he would 
say, " When the State of Mississippi was where Arkansas 
now is ; " and would never speak of Louisiana or Missouri in 
a general way, and leave an incorrect impression on your 
mind, — no, he would say, " When Louisiana was up the 
river farther," or " When Missouri was on the Illinois side." 

The old gentleman was not of literary turn or capacity, 
but he used to jot down brief paragraphs of plain practical 
information about the river, and sign them " Mark Twain," 
and give them to the " New Orleans Picayune." They related 
to the stage and condition of the river, and were accurate and 
valuable ; and thus far, they contained no poison. But in 


speaking of the stage of the river to-day, at a given point, 
the captain was pretty apt to drop in a little remark about 
this being the first time he had seen the water so high or so 
low at that particular point for forty-nine years ; and now 
and then he would mention Island so and so, and follow it, 
in parentheses, with some such observation as " disappeared 
in 1807, if I remember rightly." In these antique interjec- 
tions lay poison and bitterness for the other old pilots, and 
they used to chaff the " Mark Twain " paragraphs with un- 
sparing mockery. 

It so chanced that one of these paragraphs 1 became the 
text for my first newspaper article. I burlesqued it broadly, 
very broadly, stringing my fantastics out to the extent of 
eight hundred or a thousand words. I was a " cub " at the 
time. I showed my performance to some pilots, and they 
eagerly rushed it into print in the " New Orleans True 
Delta." It was a great pity ; for it did nobody any worthy 
service, and it sent a pang deep into a good man's heart. 
There was no malice in my rubbish ; but it laughed at the 
captain. It laughed at a man to whom such a thing was 
new and strange and dreadful. I did not know then, though 
I do now, that there is no suffering comparable with that 
which a private person feels when he is for the first time 
pilloried in print. 

Captain Sellers did me the honor to profoundly detest me 
from that day forth. When I say he did me the honor, I am 
not using empty words. It was a very real honor to be in 
the thoughts of so great a man as Captain Sellers, and I had 

1 The original MS. of it, in the captain's own hand, has been sent to me 
from New Orleans. It reads as follows : — 

" Vicksbdrg, May 4, 1859. 
" My opinion for the benefit of the citizens of New Orleans : The water is 
higher this far up than it has been since 1815. My opinion is that the water 
will be 4 feet deep in Canal street before the first of next June. Mrs. Turner's 
plantation at the head of Big Black Island is all under water, and it has not 
been since 1815. 

" I. Sellers." 




wit enough to appreciate it and be proud of it. It was dis- 
tinction to be loved by such a man ; but it was a much 
greater distinction to be hated by him, because he loved 
scores of people ; but he did n't sit up nights to hate any- 
body but me. 

He never 
printed an- 
other para- 
graph while 
he lived, and 
he never again 
signed " Mark 
Twain" to 
anything. At 
the time that 
the telegraph 
brought the 
news of his 
death, I was 
on the Pacific 
coast. I was 
a fresh new 
journalist, and 
needed a nom 
de guerre; so 
I confiscated 
the ancient 
mariner's dis- 
carded one, 
and have done 
my best to make it remain what it was 
in his hands — a sign and symbol and 
warrant that whatever is found in its 
company may be gambled on as being the petrified truth ; 
how I have succeeded, it would not be modest in me to say. 
The captain had an honorable pride in his profession and 




an abiding love for it. He ordered his monument before he 
died, and kept it near him until he did die. It stands over 
his grave now, in Bellefontaine cemetery, St. Louis. It is 
his image, in marble, standing on duty at the pilot wheel ; 
and worthy to stand and confront criticism, for it represents 
a man who in life would have staid there till he burned to a 
cinder, if duty required it. 

The finest thing we saw on our whole Mississippi trip, we 
saw as we approached New Orleans in the steam-tug. This 
was the curving frontage of the crescent city lit up with the 
white glare of five miles of electric lights. It was a wonder- 
ful sight, and very beautiful. 



WE left for St. Louis in the " City of Baton Rouge," on 
a delightfully hot day, but with the main purpose of 
my visit but lamely accomplished. I had hoped to hunt up 
and talk with a hundred steamboatmen, but got so pleas- 
antly involved in the social life of the town that I got noth- 
ing more than mere five-minute talks with a couple of dozen 
of the craft. 

I was on the bench of the pilot-house when we backed out 
and " straightened up" for the start — the boat pausing for 
a "good ready," in the old-fashioned way, and the black 
smoke piling out of the chimneys equally in the old-fashioned 
way. Then we began to gather momentum, and presently 
were fairly under way and booming along. It was all as 
natural and familiar — and so were the shoreward sights — 
as if there had been no break in my river life. There was 
a " cub," and I judged that he would take the wheel now ; 
and he did. Captain Bixby stepped into the pilot-house. 
Presently the cub closed up on the rank of steamships. He 
made me nervous, for he allowed too much water to show 
between our boat and the ships. I knew quite well what was 
going to happen, because I could date back in my own life 
and inspect the record. The captain looked on, during a 
silent half-minute, then took the wheel himself, and crowded 
the boat in, till she went scraping along within a hand-breadth 
of the ships. It was exactly the favor which he had done 
me, about a quarter of a century before, in that same spot, 



the first time I ever steamed out of the port of New Orleans. 
It was a very great and sincere pleasure to me to see the 
thing repeated — with somebody else as victim. 

We made Natchez (three hundred miles) in twenty-two 
hours and a 
half, — much 
the swiftest pas- 
sage I have 
ever made over 
that piece of 

The next 
morning I came 
on with the four 
o'clock watch, 
and saw Ritchie 
run half a doz- 
en crossings in 
a fog, using for 
his guidance the 
marked chart 
devised and pa- 
tented by Bixby 
and himself. 
This sufficiently 
evidenced the 
great value of 
the chart. 

By and by, 
when the fog 
began to clear off, I noticed that the reflection of a tree in 
the smooth water of an overflowed bank, six hundred yards 
away, was stronger and blacker than the ghostly tree itself. 
The faint spectral trees, dimly glimpsed through the shred- 
ding fog, were very pretty things to see. 



We had a heavy thunder-storm at Natchez, another at 
Vicksburg, and still another about fifty miles below Mem- 
phis. They had an old-fashioned energy which had long 
been unfamiliar to me. This third storm was accompanied 
by a raging wind. We tied up to the bank when we saw the 
tempest coming, and everybody left the pilot-house but me. 
The wind bent the young trees down, exposing the pale 
underside of the leaves ; and gust after gust followed, in quick 
succession, thrashing the branches violently up and down, 
and to this side and that, and creating swift waves of alter- 
nating green and white according to the side of the leaf 
that was exposed, and these waves raced after each other 
as do their kind over a wind-tossed field of oats. No color 
that was visible anywhere was quite natural, — all tints were 
charged with a leaden tinge from the solid cloud-bank over- 
head. The river was leaden ; all distances the same; and 
even the far-reaching ranks of combing white-caps were dully 
shaded by the dark, rich atmosphere through which their 
swarming legions marched. The thunder-peals were con- 
stant and deafening ; explosion followed explosion with but 
inconsequential intervals between, and the reports grew 
steadily sharper and higher-keyed, and more trying to the 
ear ; the lightning was as diligent as the thunder, and pro- 
duced effects which enchanted the eye and sent electric ecsta- 
sies of mixed delight and apprehension shivering along 
every nerve in the body in unintermittent procession. The 
rain poured down in amazing volume ; the ear-splitting 
thunder-peals broke nearer and nearer ; the wind increased 
in fury and began to wrench off boughs and tree-tops and 
send them sailing away through space ; the pilot-house fell 
to rocking and straining and cracking and surging, and I 
went down in the hold to see what time it was. 

People boast a good deal about Alpine thunder-storms; 
but the storms which I have had the luck to see in the Alps 
were not the equals of some which I have seen in the Mis- 
sissippi Valley. I may not have seen the Alps do their best, 


of course, and if they can beat the Mississippi, I don't 
wish to. 

On this up trip I saw a little towhead (infant island) half 
a mile long, which had been formed during the past nineteen 
years. Since there was so much time to spare that nineteen 
years of it could be devoted to the construction of a mere 
towhead, where was the use, originally, in rushing this whole 
globe through in six days ? It is likely that if more time had 
been taken, in the first place, the world would hare been 
made right, and this ceaseless improving and repairing 
would not be necessary now. But if you hurry a world or 
a house, you are nearly sure to find out by and by, that you 
have left out a towhead, or a broom-closet, or some other 
little convenience, here and there, which has got to be sup- 
plied, no matter how much expense and vexation it may 

We had a succession of black nights, going up the river, 
and it was observable that whenever we landed, and sud- 
denly inundated the trees with the intense sunburst of the 
electric light, a certain curious effect was always produced : 
hundreds of birds flocked instantly out from the masses of 
shining green foliage, and went careering hither and thither 
through the white rays, and often a song-bird tuned up and 
fell to singing. We judged that they mistook this superb 
artificial day for the genuine article. 

We had a delightful trip in that thoroughly well-ordered 
steamer, and regretted that it was accomplished so speedily. 
By means of diligence and activity, we managed to hunt out 
nearly all the old friends. One was missing, however ; he 
went to his reward, whatever it was, two years ago. But I 
found out all about him. His case helped me to realize how 
lasting can be the effect of a very trifling occurrence. 
When he was an apprentice-blacksmith in our village, and 
I a schoolboy, a couple of young Englishmen came to the 
town and sojourned a while ; and one day they got them- 
selves up in cheap royal finery and did the Richard III. 



sword-fight with maniac energy and prodigious powwow, in 
the presence of the village boys. This blacksmith cub was 

there, and the histri- 
onic poison entered 
his bones. This vast, 
lumbering, ignorant, 
dull-witted lout was 
stage-struck, and irre- 
coverably. He disap- 
peared, and presently 
turned up in St. Louis. 
I ran across him there, 
by and by. He was 
standing musing on a 
street corner, with his 
right hand on his hip, 
the thumb of his left 
supporting his chin, 
face bowed and frown- 
ing, slouch hat pulled 
down over his fore- 
head — imagining 
himself to be Othello 
or some such charac- 
ter, and imagining 
that the passing crowd 
marked his tragic 
bearing and were awe- 

I joined him, and 
tried to get him down 
out of the clouds, but 
did not succeed. How- 
ever, he casually informed me, presently, that he was a mem- 
ber of the Walnut Street theatre company, — and he tried 
to say it with indifference, but the indifference was thin, and 



a mighty exultation showed through it. He said he was 
cast for a part in Julius Caesar, for that night, and if I should 
come I would see him. If I should come ! I said I would n't 
miss it if I were dead. 

I went away stupefied with astonishment, and saying to 
myself, " How strange it is ! we always thought this fellow a 
fool ; yet the moment he comes to a great city, where intel- 
ligence and appreciation abound, the talent concealed in this 
shabby napkin is at once discovered, and promptly welcomed 
and honored." 

But I came away from the theatre that night disappointed 
and offended ; for I had had no glimpse of my hero, and his 
name was not in the bills. I met him on the street the next 
morning, and before I could speak, he asked : — 

" Did you see me ? " 

" No, you were n't there." 

He looked surprised and disappointed. He said : — 

" Yes, I was. Indeed I was. I was a Roman soldier." 

" Which one ? " 

" Why, did n't you see them Roman soldiers that stood 
back there in a rank, and sometimes marched in procession 
around the stage ? " 

" Do you mean the Roman army ? — those six sandalled 
roustabouts in nightshirts, with tin shields and helmets, that 
marched around treading on each other's heels, in charge of 
a spider-legged consumptive dressed like themselves ? " 

" That 's it ! that 's it ! I was one of them Roman sol- 
diers. I was the next to the last one. A half a year ago I 
used to always be the last one ; but I 've been promoted." 

Well, they told me that that poor fellow remained a 
Roman soldier to the last — a matter of thirty-four years. 
Sometimes they cast him for a " speaking part," but not an 
elaborate one. He could be trusted to go and say, " My lord, 
the carriage waits," but if they ventured to add a sentence or 
two to this, his memory felt the strain and he was likely to 
miss fire. Yet, poor devil, he had been patiently studying 



the part of Hamlet for more than thirty years, and he lived 
and died in the belief that some day he would be invited to 
play it ! 

And this is what came of that fleeting visit of those 
young Englishmen to our village such ages and ages ago ! 
What noble horseshoes this man might have made, but for 

those Eng- 
lishmen; and 
what an in- 
adequate Ro- 
man soldier 
he did make ! 
A day or 
two after 
we reached 
St. Louis, I 
was walking 
along Fourth 
Street when a 
grizzly -head- 
ed man gave 
a sort of 
start as he 
passed me, 
then stopped, 
came back, 
inspected me 

narrowly, with a clouding brow, and finally said with deep 
asperity : — 

" Look here, have you got that drink yet ? " 
A maniac, I judged, at first. But all in a flash I recog- 
nized him. I made an effort to blush that strained every 
muscle in me, and answered as sweetly and winningly as 
ever I knew how : — 

" Been a little slow, but am just this minute closing in on 
the place where they keep it. Come in and help." 



He softened, and said make it a bottle of champagne and 
he was agreeable. He said he had seen my name in the 
papers, and had put all his affairs aside and turned out, 
resolved to find me or die ; and make me answer that ques- 
tion satisfactorily, or kill me ; though the most of his late 
asperity had been rather counterfeit than otherwise. 

This meeting brought back to me the St. Louis riots of 
about thirty years ago. I spent a week there, at that time, 
in a boarding-house, and had this young fellow for a neigh- 
bor across the hall. We saw some of the fightings and kill- 
ings ; and by and by we went one night to an armory where 
two hundred young men had met, upon call, to be armed 
and go forth against the rioters, under command of a mili- 
tary man. We drilled till about ten o'clock at night ; then 
news came that the mob were in great force in the lower 
end of the town, and were sweeping everything before them. 
Our column moved at once. It was a very hot night, and 
my musket was very heavy. We marched and marched ; 
and the nearer we approached the seat of war, the hotter I 
grew and the thirstier I got. I was behind my friend ; so, 
finally, I asked him to hold my musket while I dropped out 
and got a drink. Then I branched off and went home. I 
was not feeling any solicitude about him of course, because I 
knew he was so well armed, now, that he could take care of 
himself without any trouble. If I had had any doubts about 
that, I would have borrowed another musket for him. I left 
the city pretty early the next morning, and if this grizzled 
man had not happened to encounter my name in the papers 
the other day in St. Louis, and felt moved to seek me out, I 
should have carried to my grave a heart-torturing uncer- 
tainty as to whether he ever got out of the riots all right or 
not. I ought to have inquired, thirty years ago ; I know 
that. And I would have inquired, if I had had the muskets ; 
but, in the circumstances, he seemed better fixed to conduct 
the investigations than I was. 

One Monday, near the time of our visit to St. Louis, the 



" Globe-Democrat" came out with a couple of pages of Sunday 
statistics, whereby it appeared that 119,448 St. Louis people 
attended the morning and evening church services the day 
before, and 23,102 children attended Sunday-school. Thus 
142,550 persons, out of the city's total of 400,000 popu- 
lation, respected the day religious-wise. I found these 
statistics, in a condensed form, in a telegram of the Associ- 
ated Press, and preserved them. They made it apparent 
that St. Louis was in a higher state of grace than she could 
have claimed to be in my time. But now that I canvass the 
figures narrowly, I suspect that the telegraph mutilated them. 
It cannot be that there are more than 150,000 Catholics in 
the town ; the other 250,000 must be classified as Protest- 
ants. Out of these 250,000, according to this questionable 
telegram, only 26,362 attended church and Sunday-school, 
while out of the 150,000 Catholics, 116,188 went to church 
and Sunday-school. 


% r , I 1 VI lift'; 

Km ...*; )fitm 




ALL at once the thought came into my mind, " I have 
not sought out Mr. Brown." 

Upon that text I desire to depart from the direct line of 
my subject, and make a little excursion. I wish to reveal 
a secret which I have carried with me nine years, and which 
has become burdensome. 

Upon a certain occasion, nine years ago, I had said, with 
strong feeling, " If ever I see St. Louis again, I will seek out 
Mr. Brown, the great grain merchant, and ask of him the 
privilege of shaking him by the hand." 

The occasion and the circumstances were as follows. A 
friend of mine, a clergyman, came one evening and said : — 

" I have a most remarkable letter here, which I want to 
read to you, if I can do it without breaking down. I must 
preface it with some explanations, however. The letter is 
written by an ex-thief and ex-vagabond of the lowest origin 
and basest rearing, a man all stained with crime and steeped 
in ignorance ; but, thank God, with a mine of pure gold hid- 
den away in him, as you shall see. His letter is written to 
a burglar named Williams, who is serving a nine-year term 
in a certain State prison, for burglary. Williams was a 
particularly daring burglar, and plied that trade during a 
number of years ; but he was caught at last and jailed, to 
await trial in a town where he had broken into a house at 
night, pistol in hand, and forced the owner to hand over to 


him $8,000 in government bonds. Williams was not a com- 
mon sort of person, by any means ; he was a graduate of 
Harvard College, and came of good New England stock. 
His father was a clergyman. While lying in jail, his health 
began to fail, and he was threatened with consumption. 
This fact, together with the opportunity for reflection 
afforded by solitary confinement, had its effect — its natural 
effect. He fell into serious thought ; his early training 
asserted itself with power, and wrought with strong influ- 
ence upon his mind and heart. He put his old life behind 
him, and became an earnest Christian. Some ladies in the 
town heard of this, visited him, and by their encouraging 
words supported him in his good resolutions and strength- 
ened him to continue in his new life. The trial ended in 
his conviction and sentence to the State prison for the term 
of nine years, as I have before said. In the prison he became 
acquainted with the poor wretch referred to in the beginning 
of my talk, Jack Hunt, the writer of the letter which I am 
going to read. You will see that the acquaintanceship bore 
fruit for Hunt. When Hunt's time was out, he wandered 
to St. Louis ; and from that place he wrote his letter to 
Williams. The letter got no further than the office of the 
prison warden, of course ; prisoners are not often allowed to 
receive letters from outside. The prison authorities read 
this letter, but did not destroy it. They had not the heart 
to do it. They read it to several persons, and eventually it 
fell into the hands of those ladies of whom I spoke a while 
ago. The other day I came across an old friend of mine — 
a clergyman — who had seen this letter, and was full of it. 
The mere remembrance of it so moved him that he could 
not talk of it without his voice breaking. He promised to 
get a copy of it for me ; and here it is, — an exact copy, with 
all the imperfections of the original preserved. It has many 
slang expressions in it — thieves' argot — but their meaning 
has been interlined, in parentheses, by the prison authori- 
ties : " — 



Me. W- 

St. Louis, June 9th, 1872. 
friend Charlie if i may call you so : i no you are 

surprised to get a letter from me, but i hope you won't be mad at 
my writing to you. i want to tell you my thanks for the way you 
talked to me when i was in prison — it has led me to try and be a 
better man ; i guess you thought i did not cair for what you said, 
& at the first go 
off I did n't, but 
i noed you was a 
man who had don 
big work with 
good men & want 
no sucker, nor 
want gasing & all 
the boys knod it. 
I used to think 
at nite what you 
said, & for iti 
nocked off swear- 
ing 5 months be- 
fore my time was 
up, for i saw it 
want no good, no- 
how — the day, 
my time was up 
you told me if i 
would shake the 
cross, (quit steal- 
ing) & live on 
the square for 3 
months, it would 
be the , best job i 

ever done in my life. The state agent give me a ticket to here, & 
on the car i thought more of what you said to me, but didn't make 
up my mind. When we got to Chicago on the cars from there to 
here, I pulled off an old woman's leather ; (robbed her of her pocket- 
book) i had n't no more than got it off when i wished i had n't done 
it, for awhile before that i made up my mind to be a square bloke, 
for 3 months on your word, but forgot it when i saw the leather 




was a grip (easy to get) — but i kept clos to her & when she got out 
of the cars at a way place i said, inarm have you lost anything ? & 
she tumbled (discovered) her leather was off (gone) — is this it says 


i, giving it to. her — well if you aint honest, says she, but i hadnt 
got cheak enough to stand that sort of talk, so i left her in a hurry. 
When i got here i had $1 and 25 cents left & i did n't get no work 
for 3 days as i aint strong enough for roust about on a steam bote 



{for a deck hand) — The afternoon of the 3rd day I spent my last 
10 cts for 2 moons {large, round sea-biscuit) & cheese & i felt pretty 
rough & was thinking i would have to go on the dipe {picking pock- 
ets) again, when i thought of what you once said about a fellows 
calling on the Lord when he was in hard luck, & i thought i would 

try it once anyhow, but 
when i tryed it i got 
stuck on the start, & all 
i could get off wos, Lord 
give a poor fellow a 


chance to square it for 3 months for Christ's sake, amen ; & i kept a 
thinking, of it over and over as i went along — about an hour after 
that i was in 4th St. & this is what happened & is the cause of my 
being where i am now & about which i will tell you before i get 
done writing. As i was walking along i herd a big noise & saw 
a horse running away with a carriage with 2 children in it, & I 
grabed up a peace of box cover from the side walk & run in. 
the middle of the street, & when the horse came up i smashed him 


514 A NEW LIFE. 

over the head as hard as i could drive — the bord split to peces & 
the horse checked up a little & i grabbed the reigns & pulled his 
head down until he stopped — the gentleman what owned him came 
running Up & soon as he saw the children were all rite, he shook 
hands with me & gave me a $50 green back, & my asking the Lord 
to help me come into my head, & i was so thunderstruck i could n't 
drop the reigns nor say nothing — he saw something was up, & 
coming back to me said, my boy are you hurt ? & the thought come 
into my head just then to ask him for work ; & i asked him to take 
back the bill and give me a job — says he, jump in here & lets 
talk about it, but keep the money — he asked me if i could take 
care of horses & i said yes, for i used to hang round livery stables 
& often would help clean & drive horses, he told me he wanted 
a man for that work, & would give me $16. a month & bord me. 
You bet i took that chance at once, that nite in my little room over 
the stable i sat a long time thinking over my past life & of what 
had just happened & i just got down on my nees & thanked the 
Lord for the job & to help me to square it, & to bless you for put- 
ting me up to it, & the next morning i done it again & got me some 
new togs (clothes) & a bible for i made up my mind after what the 
Lord had done for me i would read the bible every nite and morn- 
ing, & ask him to keep an eye on me. When I had been there 
about a week Mr Brown (that 's his name) came in my room one 
nite & saw me reading the bible — he asked me if i was a Christian 
& i told him no — he asked me how it was i read the bible instead 
of papers & books — Well Charlie i thought i had better give him 
a square deal in the start, so i told him all about my being in prison 
& about you, & how i had almost done give up looking for work & 
how the Lord got me the job when i asked him ; & the only way i 
had to pay him back was to read the bible & square it, & i asked 
him to give me a chance for 3 months — he talked to me like a 
father for a long time, & told me i could stay & then i felt better 
than ever i had done in my life, for i had given Mr. Brown a fair 
start with me & now i did n't fear no one giving me a back cap 
(exposing his past life) & running me off the job — the next morn- 
ing he called me into the library & gave me another square talk, 
& advised me to study some every day, & he would help me one or 
2 hours every nite, & he gave me a Arithmetic, a spelling book, a 
Geography & a writing book, & he hers me every nite — he lets 


me come into the house to prayers every morning, & got me put in 
a bible class in the Sunday School which i likes very much for it 
helps me to understand my bible better. 

Now, Charlie the 8 months on the square are up 2 months ago, 
& as you said, it is the best job i ever did in my life, & i commenced 
another of the same sort right away, only it is to God helping me 
to last a lifetime Charlie — i wrote this letter to tell you I do think 
God has forgiven my sins & herd your prayers, for you told me you 
should pray for me — i no i love to read his word & tell him all my 
troubles & he helps me i know for i have plenty of chances to steal 
but i don't feel to as i once did & now i take more pleasure in going 
to church than to the theatre & that wasnt so once — our minister 
and others often talk with me & a month ago they wanted me to 
join the church, but I said no, not now, i may be mistaken in my 
feelings, i will wait awhile, but now i feel that God has called me & 
on the first Sunday in July i will join the church — dear friend i 
wish i could write to you as i feel, but i cant do it yet — you no i 
learned to read and write while in prisons & i aint got well enough 
along to write as i would talk ; i no i aint spelled all the words rite 
in this & lots of other mistakes but you will excuse it i no, for you 
no i was brought up in a poor house until i run away, & that i 
never new who my father and mother was & i dont no my rite name, 
& i hope you wont be mad at me, but i have as much rite to one 
name as another & i have taken your name, for you wont use it 
when you get out i no, & you are the man i think most of in the 
world ; so i hope you wont be mad — I am doing well, i put $10 a 
month in bank with $25 of the $50 — if you ever want any or all 
of it let me know, & it is yours, i wish you would let me send you 
some now. I send you with this a receipt for a year of Littles 
Living Age, i did n't know what you would like & i told Mr Brown 
& he said he thought you would like it — i wish i was nere you so 
i could send you chuck (refreshments) on holidays ; it would spoil 
this weather from here, but i will send you a box next thanksgiving 
any way — next week Mr Brown takes me into his store as lite 
porter & will advance me as soon as i know a little more — he 
keeps a big granary store, wholesale — i forgot to tell you of my 
mission school, Sunday school class — the school is in the Sunday 
afternoon, i went out two Sunday afternoons, and picked up seven 
kids (little boys) & got them to come in. two of them new as much 



as i did & i had them put in a class where they could learn some- 
thing, i dont no much myself, but as these kids cant read i get on 
nicely with them, i make sure of them by going after them every 
Sunday | hour before school time, i also got 4 girls to come, tell 
Mack and Harry about me, if they will come out here when their 
time is up i will get them jobs at once, i hope you will excuse this 


long letter & all mistakes, i wish i could see you for i cant write as 
i would talk — i hope the warm weather is doing your lungs good 
— i was afraid when you was bleeding you would die — give my 
respects to all the boys and tell them how i am doing — i am doing 
well and every one here treats me as kind as they can — Mr Brown 
is going to write to you sometime — i hope some day you will 
write to me, this letter is from your very true friend 

C w 

who you know as Jack Hunt. 
I send you Mr Brown's card. Send my letter to him. 

Here was true eloquence ; irresistible eloquence ; and with- 
out a single grace or ornament to help it out. I have seldom 


been so deeply stirred by any piece of writing. The reader 
of it halted, all the way through, on a lame-and broken voice ; 
yet he had tried to fortify his feelings by several private 
readings of the letter before venturing into company with it. 
He was practising upon me to see if there was any hope of his 
being able to read the document to his prayer-meeting witli 
anything like a decent command over his feelings. The 
result was not promising. However, he determined to risk 
it ; and did. He got through tolerably well ; but his audience 
broke down early, and stayed in that condition to the end. 

The fame of the letter spread through the town. A brother 
minister came and borrowed the manuscript, put it bodily into 
a sermon, preached the sermon to twelve hundred people on 
a Sunday morning, and the letter drowned them in their own 
tears. Then my friend put it into a sermon and went before 
his Sunday morning congregation with it. It scored another 
triumph. The house wept as one individual. 

My friend went on summer vacation up into the fishing 
regions of our northern British neighbors, and carried this 
sermon with him, since he might possibly chance to need a 
sermon. He was asked to preach, one day. The little church 
was full. Among the people present were the late Dr. J. G. 
Holland, the late Mr. Seymour of the "New York Times," 
Mr. Page, the philanthropist and temperance advocate, and, I 
think, Senator Frye, of Maine. The marvellous letter did its 
wonted work ; all the people were moved, all the people wept ; 
the tears flowed in a steady stream down Dr. Holland's 
cheeks, and nearly the same can be said with regard to all 
who were there. Mr. Page was so full of enthusiasm over 
the letter that he said he would not rest until he made pil- 
grimage to that prison, and had speech with the man who had 
been able to inspire a fellow-unfortunate to write so priceless 
a tract. 

Ah, that unlucky Page ! — and another man. H they had 
only been in Jericho, that letter would have rung through 
the world and stirred all the hearts of all the nations for a 


thousand years to come, and nobody might ever have found 
out that it was the confoundedest, brazenest, ingeniousest 
piece of fraud and humbuggery that was ever concocted to 
fool poor confiding mortals with ! 

The letter was a pure swindle, and that is the truth. And 
take it by and large, it was without a compeer among swin- 
dles. It was perfect, it was rounded, symmetrical, complete, 
colossal ! 

The reader learns it at this point ; but we did n't learn it 
till some miles and weeks beyond this stage of the affair. 
My friend came back from the woods, and he and other 
clergymen and lay missionaries began once more to inundate 
audiences with their tears and the tears of said audiences ; I 
begged hard for permission to print the letter in a magazine 
and tell the watery story of its triumphs ; numbers of people 
got copies of the letter, with permission to circulate them in 
writing, but not in print ; copies were sent to the Sandwich 
Islands and other far regions. 

Charles Dudley Warner was at church, one day, when the 
worn letter was read and wept over. At the church door, 
afterward, he dropped a peculiarly cold iceberg down the 
clergyman's back with the question, — 

"Do you know that letter to be genuine ? " 

It was the first suspicion that had ever been voiced ; but 
it had that sickening effect which first-uttered suspicions 
against one's idol always have. Some talk followed : — 

" Why — what should make you suspect that it is n't 
genuine ? " 

" Nothing that I know of, except that it is too neat, and 
compact, and fluent, and nicely put together for an ignorant 
person, an unpractised hand. I think it was done by an 
educated man." 

The literary artist had detected the literary machinery. If 
you will look at the letter now, you will detect it yourself — 
it is observable in every line. 

Straightway the clergyman went off, with this seed of 



suspicion sprouting in him, and wrote to a minister resid- 
ing in that town where Williams had been jailed and 
converted ; asked for light ; and also asked if a person 
in the literary line (meaning me) might be allowed to print 
the letter and tell its history. He presently received this 
answer : — 

Rev. . 

My Dear Friend, — In regard to that " convict's letter " there 
can be no doubt as to its genuineness. "Williams," to whom it 
was written, lay 
in our jail and 
professed to have 
been converted, 

and Rev. Mr. , 

the chaplain, had 
great faith in the 
genuineness of the 
change — as much 
as one can have in 
any such case. 

The letter was 
sent to one of our 
ladies, who is a 
teacher, — >sent 
either by Wil- 
liams himself, or 
the chaplain of 
the State's prison, Williams. 

probably. She 

has been greatly annoyed in having so much publicity, lest it 
might seem a breach of confidence, or be an injury to Wil- 
liams. In regard to its publication, I can give no permission ; 
though if the names and places were omitted, and especially if 
sent out of the country, I think you might take the responsibility 
and do it. 

It is a wonderful letter, which no Christian genius, much less one 
unsanctified, could ever have written. As showing the work of 


grace in a human heart, and in a very degraded and wicked one, it 
proves its own origin and reproves our weak faith in its power to 
cope with any form of wickedness. 

" Mr. Brown " of St. Louis, some one said, was a Hartford 
man. Do all whom you send from Hartford serve their Master as 

P. S. Williams is still in the State's prison, serving out a long 
sentence — of nine years, I think. He has been sick and threatened 
with consumption, but I have not inquired after him lately. This 
lady that I speak of corresponds with him, I presume, and will be 
quite sure to look after him. 

This letter arrived a few days after it was written — and 
up went Mr. Williams's stock again. Mr. Warner's low- 
down suspicion was laid in the cold, cold grave, where it 
apparently belonged. It was a suspicion based upon mere 
internal evidence, anyway ; and when you come to internal 
evidence, it 's a big field and a game that two can play at : 
as witness this other internal evidence, discovered by the 
writer of the note above quoted, that " it is a wonderful 
letter — which no Christian genius, much less one unsanc- 
tified, could ever have written." 

I had permission now to print — provided I suppressed 
names and places and sent my narrative out of the country. 
So I chose an Australian magazine for vehicle, as being far 
enough out of the country, and set myself to work on my 
article. And the ministers set the pumps going again, with 
the letter to work the handles. 

But meantime Brother Page had been agitating. He had 
not visited the penitentiary, but he had sent a copy of the 
illustrious letter to the chaplain of that institution, and 
accompanied it with — apparently — inquiries. He got an 
answer, dated four days later than that other Brother's 
reassuring epistle ; and before my article was complete, it 
wandered into my hands. The original is before me, now, 
and I here append it. It is pretty well loaded with internal 
evidence of the most solid description : — 


State's Prison, Chaplain's Office, July 11, 1873. 
Dear Bro. Page, — Herewith please find the letter kindly 
loaned me. I am afraid its genuineness cannot be established. It 
purports to be addressed to some prisoner here. No such letter 
ever came to a prisoner here. All letters received are carefully- 
read by officers of the prison before they go into the hands of the 
convicts, and any such letter could not be forgotten. Again, Charles 
Williams is not a Christian man, but a dissolute, cunning prodigal, 
whose father is a minister of the gospel. His name is an assumed 
one. I am glad to have made your acquaintance. I am preparing 
a lecture upon life seen through prison bars, and should like to 
deliver the same in your vicinity. 

And so ended that little drama. My poor article went 
into the fire ; for whereas the materials for it were now 
more abundant and infinitely richer than they had previ- 
ously been, there were parties all around me, who, although 
longing for the publication before, were a unit for suppres- 
sion at this stage and complexion of the game. They said, 
— " Wait — the wound is too fresh, yet." All the copies of 
the famous letter except mine, disappeared suddenly ; and 
from that time onward, the aforetime same old drought set 
in in the churches. As a rule, the town was on a spacious 
grin for a while, but there were places in it where the grin 
did not appear, and where it was dangerous to refer to the 
ex-convict's letter. 

A word of explanation. "Jack Hunt," the professed 
writer of the letter, was an imaginary person. The burglar 
Williams — Harvard graduate, son of a minister — wrote the 
letter himself, to himself : got it smuggled out of the prison ; 
got it conveyed to persons who had supported and encouraged 
him in his conversion — where he knew two things would 
happen : the genuineness of the letter would not be doubted 
or inquired into ; and the nub of it would be noticed, and 
would have valuable effect — the effect, indeed, of starting 
a movement to get Mr. Williams pardoned out of prison. 

That " nub " is so ingeniously, so casually, flung in, and 


immediately left there in the tail of the letter, undwelt upon, 
that an indifferent reader would never suspect that it was 
the heart and core of the epistle, if he even took note of it 
at all. This is the " nub " : — 

" i hope the warm weather is doing your lungs good — i was 
afraid when you was bleeding you would die — give my respects," 

That is all there is of it — simply touch and go — no 
dwelling upon it. Nevertheless it was intended for an eye 
that would be swift to see it ; and it was meant to move a 
kind heart to try to effect the liberation of a poor reformed 
and purified fellow lying in the fell grip of consumption. 

When I for the first time heard that letter read, nine 
years ago, I felt that it was the most remarkable one I had 
ever encountered. And it so warmed me toward Mr. Brown 
of St. Louis that I said that if ever I visited that city again, 
I would seek out that excellent man and kiss the hem of 
his garment if it was a new one. Well, I visited St. Louis, 
but I did not hunt for Mr. Brown ; for, alas ! the investiga- 
tions of long ago had proved that the benevolent Brown, 
like " Jack Hunt," was not a real person, but a sheer inven- 
tion of that gifted rascal, Williams — burglar, Harvard grad- 
uate, son of a clergyman. 



WE took passage in one of the fast boats of the St. 
Louis and St. Paul Packet Company, and started 
up the river. 

When I, as a boy, first saw the mouth of the Missouri 
River, it was twenty-two or twenty-three miles above St. 
Louis, according to the estimate of pilots ; the wear and 
tear of the banks has moved it down eight miles since then ; 
and the pilots say that within five years the river will cut 
through and move the mouth down five miles more, which 
will bring it within ten miles of St. Louis. 

About nightfall we passed the large and flourishing town 
of Alton, Illinois ; and before daylight next morning the 
town of Louisiana, Missouri, a sleepy village in my day, but 
a brisk railway centre now ; however, all the towns out 
there are railway centres now. I could not clearly recog- 
nize the place. This seemed odd to me, for when I retired 
from the rebel army in '61 I retired upon Louisiana in good 
order; at least in good enough order for a person who had 
not yet learned how to retreat according to the rules of war, 
and had to trust to native genius. It seemed to me that for 
a first attempt at a retreat it was not badly done. I had 
done no advancing in all that campaign that was at all equal 
to it. 

There was a railway bridge across the river here well 
sprinkled with glowing lights, and a very beautiful sight it 


At seven in the morning we reached Hannibal, Missouri, 
where my boyhood was spent. I had had a glimpse of it 
fifteen years ago, and another glimpse six years earlier, but 
both were so brief that they hardly counted. The only no- 
tion of the town that remained in my mind was the memory 
of it as I had known it when I first quitted it twenty-nine 
years ago. That picture of it was still as clear and vivid to 
me as a photograph. I stepped ashore with the feeling of 
one who returns out of a dead-and-gone generation. I had 
a sort of realizing sense of what the Bastille prisoners must 
have felt when they used to come out and look upon Paris 
after years of captivity, and note how curiously the famil- 
iar and the strange were mixed together before them. I 
saw the new houses — saw them plainly enough — but they 
did not affect the older picture in my mind, for through 
their solid bricks and mortar I saw the vanished houses, 
which had formerly stood there, with perfect distinctness. 

It was Sunday morning, and everybody was abed yet. So 
I passed through the vacant streets, still seeing the town as 
it was, and not as it is, and recognizing and metaphorically 
shaking hands with a hundred familiar objects which no 
longer exist; and finally climbed Holiday's Hill to get a 
comprehensive view. The whole town lay spread out below 
me then, and I could mark and fix every locality, every 
detail. Naturally, I was a good deal moved. I said, " Many 
of the people I once knew in this tranquil refuge of my 
childhood are now in heaven ; some, I trust, are in the other 

The things about me and before me made me feel like a 
boy again — convinced me that I was a boy again, and that 
I had simply been dreaming an unusually long dream ; but 
my reflections spoiled all that ; for they forced me to say, 
" I see fifty old houses down yonder, into each of which I 
could enter and find either a man or a woman who was a 
baby or unborn when I noticed those houses last, or a grand- 
mother who was a plump young bride at that time." 



From this vantage ground the extensive view up and down 
the river, and wide over the wooded expanses of Illinois, is 
very, beautiful, — one of the most beautiful on the Missis- 
sippi, I think; which is a hazardous remark to make, for the 
eight hundred miles of river between St. Louis and St. Paul 
afford an unbroken succession of lovely pictures. It may be 
that my affection for the one in question biases my judg- 
ment in its favor ; I cannot say as to that. No matter, it 
was satisfyingly 
beautiful to me, 
and it had this 
advantage over 
all the other 
friends whom I 
was about to 
greet again : it 
had suffered no 
change ; it was as 
young and fresh 
and comely and 
gracious as ever 
it had been; 
whereas, the faces 
of the others 
would be old, and 
scarred with the 
campaigns of life, 
and marked with their griefs and defeats, and would give 
me no upliftings of spirit. 

An old gentleman, out on an early morning walk, came 
along, and we discussed the weather, and then drifted into 
other matters. I could not remember his face. He said he 
had been living here twenty-eight years. So he had come 
after my time, and I had never seen him before. I asked 
him various questions ; first about a mate of mine in Sunday 
school — what became of him ? 



" He graduated with honor in an Eastern college, wan- 
dered off into the world somewhere, succeeded at nothing, 
passed out of knowledge and memory years ago, and is sup- 
posed to have gone to the dogs." 

" He was bright, and promised well when he was a boy." 

" Yes, but the thing that happened is what became of it 

I asked after another lad, altogether the brightest in our 
village school when I was a boy. 

"He, too, was graduated with honors, from an Eastern 
college ; but life whipped him in every battle, straight along, 
and he died in one of the Territories, years ago, a defeated 

I asked after another of the bright boys. 

" He is a success, always has been, always will be, I 

I inquired after a young fellow who came to the town to 
study for one of the professions when I was a boy. 

" He went at something else before he got through — 
went from medicine to law, or from law to medicine — then 
to some other new thing ; went away for a year, came back 
with a young wife ; fell to drinking, then to gambling behind 
the door ; finally took his wife and two young children to 
her father's, and went off to Mexico ; went from bad to 
worse, and finally died there, without a cent to buy a shroud, 
and without a friend to attend the funeral." 

" Pity, for he was the best-natured, and most cheery and 
hopeful young fellow that ever was." 

I named another boy. 

" Oh, he is all right. Lives here yet ; has a wife and chil- 
dren, and is prospering." 

Same verdict concerning other boys. 

I named three school-girls. 

" The first two live here, are married and have children ; 
the other is long ago dead — never married." 

I named, with emotion, one of my early sweethearts. 


" She is all right. Been married three times ; buried two 
husbands, divorced from the third, and I hear she is getting 
ready to marry an old fellow out in Colorado somewhere. 
She 's got children scattered around here and there, most 

The answer to several other inquiries was brief and 
simple, — 

" Killed in the war." 

I named another boy. 

" Well, now, his case is curious ! There was n't a human 
being in-this town but knew that that boy was a perfect 
chucklehead ; perfect dummy ; just a stupid ass, as you may 
say. Everybody knew it, and everybody said it. Well, if 
that very boy is n't the first lawyer in the State of Missouri 
to-day, I 'm a Democrat ! " 

"Is that so?" 

" It 's actually so. I 'm telling you the truth." 

" How do you account for it ? " 

" Account for it ? There ain't any accounting for it, ex- 
cept that if you send a damned fool to St. Louis, and you 
don't tell them he 's a damned fool they HI never find it out. 
There 's one thing sure — if I had a damned fool I should 
know what to do with him : ship him to St. Louis — it 's the 
noblest market in the world for that kind of property. Well, 
when you come to look at it all around, and chew at 
it and think it over, don't it just bang anything you ever 
heard of ? " 

" Well, yes, it does seem to. But don't you think maybe 
it was the Hannibal people who were mistaken about the 
boy, and not the St. Louis people ? " 

" Oh, nonsense ! The people here have known him from 
the very cradle — they knew him a hundred times better 
than the St. Louis idiots could have known him. No, if you 
have got any damned fools that you want to realize on, take 
my advice — send them to St. Louis." 

I mentioned a great number of people whom I had formerly 



known. Some were dead, some were gone away, some had 
prospered, some had come to naught; but as regarded a dozen 
or so of the lot, the answer was comforting : 

" Prosperous — live here yet — town littered with their 

I asked about Miss . 

" Died in the insane asylum three or four years ago — 
never was out of it from the time she went in ; and was 

always suffering, 
too ; never got a 
shred of her mind 

If he spoke the 
truth, here was a 
heavy tragedy, in- 
deed. Thirty-six 
years in a mad- 
house, that some 
young fools might 
have some fun ! 
I was a small boy , 
at the time ; and 
I saw those giddy 
young ladies 
come tiptoeing 
into the room 

where Miss 

sat reading at 
midnight by a lamp. The girl at the head of the file wore a 
shroud and a doughface ; she crept behind the victim, touched 
her on the shoulder, and she looked up and screamed, and 
then fell into convulsions. She did not recover from the 
fright, but went mad. In these days it seems incredible that 
people believed in ghosts so short a time ago. But they did. 

After asking after such other folk as I could call to mind, 
I finally inquired about myself : 




" Oh, he succeeded well enough — another case of damned 
fool. If they 'd sent him to St. Louis, he 'd have succeeded 

It was with much satisfaction that I recognized the wisdom 
of having told this candid gentleman, in the beginning, that 
my name was Smith. 

"z&K £&> , r* ' ''X 'wlir^^ fte 

mmc± *it- 



BEING left to myself, up there, I went on picking out old 
houses in the distant town, and calling back their 
former inmates out of the mouldy past. Among them I 
presently recognized the house of the father of Lem Hackett 
(fictitious name). It carried me back more than a genera- 
tion in a moment, and landed me in the midst of a time 
when the happenings of life were not the natural and logical 
results of great general laws, but of special orders, and were 
freighted with very precise and distinct purposes — partly 
punitive in intent, partly admonitory ; and usually local in 

When I was a small boy, Lem Hackett was drowned — on 
a Sunday. He fell out of an empty flat-boat, where he was 
playing. Being loaded with sin, he went to the bottom like 
an anvil. He was the only boy in the village who slept that 
night. We others all lay awake, repenting. We had not 
needed the information, delivered from the pulpit that 
evening, that Lem's was a case of special judgment — we 
knew that, already. There was a ferocious thunder-storm, 
that night, and it raged continuously until near dawn. The 
winds blew, the windows rattled, the rain swept along the 
roof in pelting sheets, and at the briefest of intervals 
the inky blackness of the night vanished, the houses over 
the way glared out white and blinding for a quivering instant, 
then the solid darkness shut down again and a splitting peal 
of thunder followed which seemed to rend everything in the 
neighborhood to shreds and splinters. I sat up in bed quak- 




ing and shuddering, waiting for the destruction of the world, 
and expecting it. To me there was nothing strange or 
incongruous in 
heaven's making- 
such an uproar 
about Lem Hack- 
ett. Apparently it 
was the right and 
proper thing to do. 
Not a doubt en- 
tered my mind that 
all the angels were 
grouped together, 
discussing this 
boy's case and ob- 
serving the awful 
bombardment of 
our beggarly little 
village with satis- 
faction and approval. There was one thing which dis- 
turbed me in the most serious way ; that was the thought 
that this centering of the celestial interest on our village 
could not fail to attract the attention of the observers to 
people among us who might otherwise have escaped notice 
for years. I felt that I was not only one of those people, 
but the very one most likely to be discovered. That discovery 
could have but one result : I should be in the fire with Lem 
before the chill of the river had been fairly warmed out of 
him. I knew that this would be only just and fair. I was 
increasing 'the chances against myself all the time, by feeling 
a secret bitterness against Lem for having attracted this 
fatal attention to me, but I could not help it — this sinful 
thought persisted in infesting my breast in spite of me. 
Every time the lightning glared I caught my breath, and 
judged I was gone. In my terror and misery, I meanly 
began to suggest other boys, and mention acts of theirs 



which were wickeder than mine, and peculiarly needed 
punishment — and I tried to pretend to myself that I was 
simply doing this in a casual way, and without intent to 
divert the heavenly attention to them for the purpose of 
getting rid of it myself. With deep sagacity I put these 
mentions into the form of sorrowing recollections and left- 
handed sham-supplications that the sins of those boys might 
be allowed to pass unnoticed — "Possibly they may repent." 
" It is true that Jim Smith broke a window and lied about it 
— but maybe he did not mean any harm. And although 
Tom Holmes says more bad words than any other boy in the 
village, he probably intends to repent — though he has never 
said he would. And whilst it is a fact that John Jones did 
fish a little on Sunday, once, he did n't really catch anything 
but only just one small useless mud-cat ; and maybe that 
would n't have been so awful if he had thrown it back — as 
he says he did, but he did n't. Pity but they would repent 
of these dreadful things — and maybe they will yet." 

But while I was shamefully trying to draw attention to 
these poor chaps — who were doubtless directing the celestial 
attention to me at the same moment, though I never once 
suspected that — I had heedlessly left my candle burning. 
It was not a time to neglect even trifling precautions. There 
was no occasion to add anything to the facilities for attract- 
ing notice to me — so I put the light out. 

It was a long night to me, and perhaps the most distressful 
one I ever spent. I endured agonies of remorse for sins 
which I knew I had committed, and for others which I was 
not certain about, yet was sure that they had been set down 
against me in a book by an angel who was wiser' than I and 
did not trust such important matters to memory. It struck 
me, by and by, that I had been making a most foolish and 
calamitous mistake, in one respect : doubtless I had not only 
made my own destruction sure by directing attention to those 
other boys, but had already accomplished theirs ! — Doubtless 
the lightning had stretched them all dead in their beds by 


this time ! The anguish and the fright which this thought 
gave me made my previous sufferings seem trilling by 

Things had become truly serious. I resolved to turn over 
a new leaf instantly ; I also resolved to connect myself with 
the church the next day, if I survived to see its sun appear. 
I resolved to cease from sin in all its forms, and to lead a 
high and blameless life forever after. I would be punctual 
at church and Sunday-school ; visit the sick ; carry baskets 
of victuals to the poor (simply to fulfil the regulation con- 
ditions, although I knew we had none among us so poor 
but they would smash the basket over my head for my 
pains) ; I would instruct other boys in right ways, and take 
the resulting trouncings meekly ; I would subsist entirely on 
tracts ; I would invade the rum shop and warn the drunkard 
— and finally, if I escaped the fate of those who early 
become too good to live, I would go for a missionary. 

The storm subsided toward daybreak, and I dozed gradually 
to sleep with a sense of obligation to Lem Hackett for going 
to eternal suffering in that abrupt way, and thus preventing 
a far more dreadful disaster — my own loss. 

But when I rose refreshed, by and by, and found that those 
other boys were still alive, I had a dim sense that perhaps 
the whole thing was a false alarm ; that the entire turmoil 
had been on Lem's account and nobody's else. The world 
looked so bright and safe that there did not seem to be any 
real occasion to turn over anew leaf. I was a little subdued, 
during that day, and perhaps the next ; after that, my 
purpose of reforming slowly dropped out of my mind, and I 
had a peaceful, comfortable time again, until the next 

That storm came about three weeks later ; and it was the 
most unaccountable one, to me, that I had ever experienced; 
for on the afternoon of that day, " Dutchy " was drowned. 
Dutchy belonged to our Sunday-school. He was a German 
lad who did not know enough to come in out of the rain ; 



but he was exasperatingly good, and had a prodigious 
memory. One Sunday he made himself the envy of all the 
youth and the talk of all the admiring village, by reciting 
three thousand verses of Scripture without missing a word ; 
then he went off the very next day and got drowned. 

f ALL ejgiit, DUTCHY — GO AHEAD. 

Circumstances gave to his death a peculiar impressiveness. 
We were all bathing in a muddy creek which had a deep hole 
in it, and in this hole the coopers had sunk a pile of green 
hickory hoop poles to soak, some twelve feet under water. 
We were diving and " seeing who could stay under longest." 


We managed to remain down by holding on to the hoop poles. 
Dutchy made such a poor success of it that he was hailed 
with laughter and derision every time his head appeared 
above water. At last he seemed hurt with the taunts, and 
begged us to stand still on the bank and be fair with him 
and give him an honest count — "be friendly and kind just 
this once, and not miscount for the sake of having the fun 
of laughing at him." Treacherous winks were exchanged, 
and all said "All right, Dutchy — go ahead, we'll play 

Dutchy plunged in, but the boys, instead of beginning to 
count, followed the lead of one of their number and 
scampered to a range of blackberry bushes close by and hid 
behind it. They imagined Dutchy's humiliation, when he 
should rise after a superhuman effort and find the place 
silent and vacant, nobody there to applaud. They were " so 
full of laugh " with the idea, that they were continually 
exploding into muffled cackles. Time swept on, and pres- 
ently one who was peeping through the briers, said, with 
surprise : — 

" Why, he hasn't come up, yet !" 

The laughing stopped. 

" Boys, it 's a splendid dive," said one. 

" Never mind that," said another, " the joke on him is all 
the better for it." 

There was a remark or two more, and then a pause. 
Talking ceased, and all began to peer through the vines. 
Before long, the boys' faces began to look uneasy, then 
anxious, then terrified. Still there was no movement of the 
placid water. Hearts began to beat fast, and faces to turn 
pale. We all glided out, silently, and stood on the bank, our 
horrified eyes wandering back and forth from each other's 
countenances to the water. 

" Somebody must go down and see ! " 

Yes, that was plain ; but nobody wanted that grisly task. 

" Draw straws ! " 



So we did — with hands which shook so, that we hardly 
knew what we were about. The lot fell to me, and I went 
down. The water was so muddy I could not see anything, 
but I felt around among the hoop poles, and presently 

grasped a limp wrist 
which gave me no 
response — and if it 
had I should not have 
known it, I let it go 
with such a fright- 
ened suddenness. 

The boy had been 
caught among the 
hoop poles and en- 
tangled there, help- 
lessly. I fled to the 
surface and told the 
awful news. Some 
of us knew that if 
the boy were dragged 
out at once he might 
possibly be resusci- 
tated, but we never 
thought of that. We did not think of anything ; we did 
not know what to do, so we did nothing — except that the 
smaller lads cried, piteously, and we all struggled fran- 
tically into our clothes, putting on anybody's that came 
handy, and getting them wrong-side-out and upside-down, as 
a rule. Then we scurried away and gave the alarm, but 
none of us went back to see the end of the tragedy. We had 
a more important thing to attend to : we all flew home, and 
lost not a moment in getting ready to lead a better life. 

The night presently closed down. Then came on that tre- 
mendous and utterly unaccountable storm. 1 was perfectly 
dazed; I could not understand it. It seemed to me that 
there must be some mistake. The elements were turned 




loose, and they rattled and banged and blazed away in the 
most blind and frantic manner. All heart and hope went 
out of me, and the dismal thought kept floating through my 
brain, " If a boy who knows three thousand verses by heart 
is not satisfactory, what chance is there for anybody else ? " 

Of course I never questioned for a moment that the 
storm was on Dutchy's account, or that he or any other 
inconsequential animal was worthy of such a majestic 
demonstration from on high ; the lesson of it was the only 
thing that troubled me ; for it convinced me that if Dutchy, 
with all his perfections, was not a delight, it would be vain 
for me to turn over a new leaf, for I must infallibly fall 
hopelessly short of that boy, no matter how hard I might 
try. Nevertheless I did turn it over — a highly educated fear 
compelled me to do that — but succeeding days of cheerfulness 
and sunshine came bothering around, and within a month I 
had so drifted backward that again I was as lost and com- 
fortable as ever. 

Breakfast time approached while I mused these musings 
and called these ancient happenings back to mind ; so I got 
me back into the present and went down the hill. 

On my way through town to the hotel, I saw the house 
which was my home when I was a boy. At present rates, 
the people who now occupy it are of no more value than I 
am ; but in my time they would have been worth not less 
than five hundred dollars apiece. They are colored folk. 

After breakfast, I went out alone again, intending to hunt 
up some of the Sunday-schools and see how this generation 
of pupils might compare with their progenitors who had sat 
with me in those places and had probably taken me as a 
model — though I do not remember as to that now. By the 
public square there had been in my day a shabby little brick 
church called the " Old Ship of Zion," which I had attended 
as a Sunday-school scholar ; and I found the locality easily 
enough, but not the old church ; it was gone, and a trig and 
rather hilarious new edifice was in its place. The pupils 


were better dressed and better looking than were those of my 
time ; consequently they did not resemble their ancestors ; 
and consequently there was nothing familiar to me in their 
faces. Still, I contemplated them with a deep interest and a 
yearning wistfulness, and if I had been a girl I would have 
cried ; for they were the .offspring, and represented, and 
occupied the places, of boys and girls some of whom I had 
loved to love, and some of whom I had loved to hate, but 
all of whom were dear to me for the one reason or the other, 
so many years gone by — and, Lord, where be they now! 

I was mightily stirred, and would have been grateful to be 
allowed to remain unmolested and look my fill ; but a 
bald-summited superintendent who had been a tow-headed 
Sunday-school mate of mine on that spot in the early ages, 
recognized me, and I talked a flutter of wild nonsense to 
those children to hide the thoughts which were in me, and 
which could not have been spoken without a betrayal of feeling 
that would have been recognized as out of character with 

Making speeches without preparation is no gift of mine; 
and I was resolved to shirk any new opportunity, but in the 
next and larger Sunday-school I found myself in the rear of 
the assemblage ; so I was very willing to go on the platform 
a moment for the sake of getting a good look at the scholars. 
On the spur of the moment I could not recall any of the old 
idiotic talks which visitors used to insult me with when I 
was a pupil there ; and I was sorry for this, since it would 
have given me time and excuse to dawdle there and take a 
long and satisfying look at what I feel at liberty to say was 
an array of fresh young comeliness not matchable in another 
Sunday-school of the same size. As I talked merely to get 
a chance to inspect ; and as I strung out the random rubbish 
solely to prolong the inspection, I judged it but decent to 
confess these low motives, and I did so. 

If the Model Boy was in either of these Sunday-schools, 
I did not see him. The Model Boy of my time — we never 



had but the one — was perfect: 
perfect in manners, perfect in 
dress, perfect in conduct, perfect in filial piety, perfect in 
exterior godliness ; but at bottom he was a prig ; and as 
for the contents of his skull, they could have changed place 
with the contents of a pie and nobody would have been the 
worse off for it but the pie. This fellow's reproachlessness 
was a standing reproach to every lad in the village. He was 
the admiration of all the mothers, and the detestation of all 
their sons. I was told what became of him, but as it was a 
disappointment to me, I will not enter into details. He 
succeeded in life. 



DURING my three days' stay in the town, I woke up 
every morning with the impression that I was a boy 
— for in my dreams the faces were all young again, and 
looked as they had looked in the old times — but I went to 
bed a hundred years old, every night — for meantime I had 
been seeing those faces as they are now. 

Of course I suffered some surprises, along at first, before I 
had become adjusted to the changed state of things. I met 
young ladies who did not seem to have changed at all ; but 
they turned out to be the daughters of the young ladies I had 
in mind — sometimes their grand-daughters. When you are 
told that a stranger of fifty is a grandmother, there is nothing 
surprising about it ; but if, on the contrary, she is a person 
whom you knew as a little girl, it seems impossible. You 
say to yourself, " How can a little girl be a grandmother ? " 
It takes some little time to accept and realize the fact that 
while you have been growing old, your friends have not been 
standing still, in that matter. 

I noticed that the greatest changes observable were with 
the women, not the men. I saw men whom thirty years had 
changed but slightly ; but their wives had grown old. These 
were good women ; it is very wearing to be good. 

There was a saddler whom I wished to see ; but he was 
gone. Dead, these many years, they said. Once or twice a 
day, the saddler used to go tearing down the street, putting 


on his coat as he went ; and then everybody knew a steam- 
boat was coming. Everybody knew, also, that John Stavely 
was not expecting anybody by the boat — or any freight, 
either ; and Stavely must have known that everybody knew 
this, still it made no difference to him ; he liked to seem to 
himself to be expecting a hundred thousand tons of saddles 
by this boat, and so he went on all his life, enjoying being 
faithfully on hand to receive and receipt for those saddles, 
in case by any miracle they should come. A malicious 
Quincy paper used always to refer to this town, in derision 
as " Stavely 's Landing." Stavely was one of my earliest 
admirations ; I envied him his rush of imaginary business, 
and the display he was able to make of it, before strangers, 
as he went flying down the street struggling with his 
fluttering coat. 

But there was a carpenter who was my chiefest hero. 
He was a mighty liar, but I did not know that ; I believed 
everything he said. He was a romantic, sentimental, melo- 
dramatic fraud, and his bearing impressed me with awe. I 
vividly remember the first time lie took me into his confidence. 
He was planing a board, and every now and then he would 
pause and heave a deep sigh ; and occasionally mutter broken 
sentences — confused and not intelligible — but out of their 
midst an ejaculation sometimes escaped which made me 
shiver and did me good : one was, " God, it is his blood ! " 
I sat on the tool-chest and humbly and shudderingly admired 
him ; for I judged he was full of crime. At last he said in a 
low voice : — 

" My little friend, can you keep a secret ? " 

I eagerly said I could. 

" A dark and dreadful one ? " 

I satisfied him on that point. 

" Then I will tell you some passages in my history ; for oh, 
I must relieve my burdened soul, or I shall die ! " 

He cautioned me once more to be " as silent as the grave ; " 
then he told me he was a " red-handed murderer." He put 


down his plane, held his hands out before him, contemplated 
them sadly, and said : — 

" Look — with these hands I have taken the lives of thirty 
human beings ! '* 

The effect which this had upon me was an inspiration to 
him, and he turned himself loose upon his subject with inter- 
est and energy. He left generalizing, and went into details, 
— began with his first murder ; described it, told what meas- 
ures he had taken to avert suspicion ; then passed to his 
second homicide, his third, his fourth, and so on. He had 
always done his murders with a bowie-knife, and he made 
all my hairs rise by suddenly snatching it out and showing 
it to me. 

At the end of this first seance I went home with six of his 
fearful secrets among my freightage, and found them a great 
help to my dreams, which had been sluggish for a while 
back. I sought him again and again, on my Saturday holi- 
days ; in fact I spent the summer with him — all of it which 
was valuable to me. His fascinations never diminished, for 
he threw something fresh and stirring, in the way of horror, 
into each successive murder. He always gave names, dates, 
places — everything. This by and by enabled me to note 
two things: that he had killed his victims in every quarter 
of the globe, and that these victims were always named 
Lynch. The destruction of the Lynches went serenely on, 
Saturday after Saturday, until the original thirty had multi- 
plied to sixty, — and more to be heard from yet; then my 
curiosity got the better of my timidity, and I asked how it 
happened that these justly punished persons all bore the same 

My hero said he had never divulged that dark secret to any 
living being ; but felt that he could trust me, and therefore 
he would lay bare before me the story of his sad and blighted 
life. He had loved one " too fair for earth," and she had 
reciprocated " with all the sweet affection of her pure and 
noble nature." But lie had a rival, a "base hireling" named 



Archibald Lynch, who said the girl should be his, or he 
would " dye his hands in her heart's best blood." The car- 

penter, " innocent and hap- 
py in love's young dream," 
gave no weight to t\\e threat, 
but led his " golden-haired 
darling to the altar," and 
there, the two were made 
one ; there also, just as the 
minister's hands were 
stretched in blessing over 
their heads, the fell deed 
was done — with a knife — 
and the bride fell a corpse 
at her husband's feet. And 
what did the husband do ? 
He plucked forth that knife, 
and kneeling by the body of 
his lost one, swore to " con- 
secrate his life to the extermination of all the human scum 
that bear the hated name of Lynch." 



That was it. He had been hunting down the Lynches and 
slaughtering them, from that day to this — twenty years. He 
had always used that same consecrated knife ; with it he had 
murdered his long array of Lynches, and with it he had left 
upon the forehead of each victim a peculiar mark — a cross, 
deeply incised. Said he : — 

" The cross of the Mysterious Avenger is known in Europe, 
in America, in China, in Siam, in the Tropics, in the Polar 
Seas, in the deserts of Asia, in all the earth. Wherever in 
the uttermost parts of the globe, a Lynch has penetrated, 
there has the Mysterious Cross been seen, and those who 
have seen it have shuddered and said, ' it is his mark, he 
has been here.' You have heard of the Mysterious Avenger 
— look upon him, for before you stands no less a person ! 
'But beware — breathe not a word to any soul. Be silent, 
and wait. Some morning this town will flock aghast to view 
a gory corpse ; on its brow will be seen the awful sign, and 
men will tremble and whisper, ' he has been here, — it is the 
Mysterious Avenger's mark ! ' You will come here, but I 
shall have vanished; you will see me no more." 

This ass has been reading the " Jibbenainosay," no doubt, 
and had had his poor romantic head turned by it ; but as I had 
not yet seen the book then, I took his inventions for truth, 
and did not suspect that he was a plagiarist. 

However, we had a Lynch living in the town ; and the 
more I reflected upon his impending doom, the more I could 
not sleep. It seemed my plain duty to save him, and a still 
plainer and more important duty to get some sleep for my- 
self, so at last I ventured to go to Mr. Lynch and tell him 
what was about to happen to him — under strict secrecy. I 
advised him to " fly," and certainly expected him to do it. 
But he laughed at me ; and he did not stop there ; he led me 
down to the carpenter's shop, gave the carpenter a jeering 
and scornful lecture upon his silly pretensions, slapped his 
face, made him get down on his knees and beg — then went 
off and left me to contemplate the cheap and pitiful ruin of 



what, in my eyes, had so lately been a majestic and incom- 
parable hero. The carpenter blustered, nourished his knife, 

and doomed this Lynch in his 
usual volcanic style, the size of 
his fateful words undiminished ; 



but it was all wasted 
upon me ; he was a 
hero to me no longer 
but only a poor, fool- 
ish, exposed humbug. 
I was ashamed of him, 
and ashamed of my- 
self ; I took no fur- 
ther interest in him, 
and never went to his 
shop any more. He 

was a heavy loss to me, for he was the greatest hero I had 
ever known. The fellow must have had some talent ; for 
some of his imaginary murders were so vividly and dramat- 
ically described that I remember all their details yet. 

The people of Hannibal are not more changed than is the 
town. It is no longer a village ; it is a city, with a mayor, 
and a council, and water-works, and probably a debt. It has 
fifteen thousand people, is a thriving and energetic place, 
and is paved like the rest of the west and south — where a 
well-paved street and a good sidewalk are things so seldom 




seen, that one doubts them when he does see them. The 
customary half-dozen railways centre in Hannibal now, and 
there is a new depot which cost a hundred thousand dollars. 
In my time the town had no specialty, and no commercial 
grandeur ; the daily packet usually landed a passenger and 
bought a catfish, and took away another passenger and a 
hatful of freight ; but now a huge commerce in lumber has 
grown up and a large miscellaneous commerce is one of the 
results. A deal of money changes hands there now. 

Bear Creek — so called, perhaps, because it was always so 
particularly bare of bears — is hidden out of sight now, 
under islands and 
continents of piled 


lumber, and 

nobody but 

an expert 

can find it. I used 

to get drowned in 

it every summer 

regularly, and be 

drained out, and inflated and set going again by some 

chance enemy ; but not enough of it is unoccupied now to 

drown a person in. It was a famous breeder of chills and 

fever in its clay. I remember one summer when everybody 

in town had this disease at once. Many chimneys were 



shaken down, and all the houses were so racked that the 
town had to be rebuilt. The chasm or gorge between 
Lover's Leap and the hill west of it is supposed by scien- 
tists to have been caused by glacial action. This is a 

There is an interesting cave a mile or two below Hanni- 
bal, among the bluffs. I would have liked to revisit it, 
but had not time. In my time the person who then owned 
it turned it into a mausoleum for his daughter, aged four- 
teen. The body of this poor child was put into a copper 
cylinder filled with alcohol, and this was suspended in one 
of the dismal avenues of the cave. The top of the cylinder 
was removable ; and it was said to be a common thing for 
the baser order of tourists to drag the dead face into view 
and examine it and comment upon it. 

j ,- 

j-~ Its /A'-t-'W "Si /-*%.->■ 



THE slaughter-house is gone from the mouth of Bear 
Creek and so is the small jail (or " calaboose ") which 
once stood in its neighborhood. A citizen asked, " Do you 
remember when Jimmy Finn, the town drunkard, was burned 
to death in the calaboose ? " 

Observe, now, how history becomes denied, through lapse 
of time and the help of the bad memories of men. Jimmy 
Finn was not burned in the calaboose, but died a natural 
death in a tan vat, of a combination of delirium tremens and 
spontaneous combustion. When I say natural death, I mean 
it was a natural death for Jimmy Finn to die. The calaboose 
victim was not a citizen ; he was a poor stranger, a harmless 
whiskey-sodden tramp. I know more about his case than 
anybody else ; I knew too much of it, in that bygone day, to 
relish speaking of it. That tramp was wandering about the 
streets one chilly evening, with a pipe in his mouth, and 
begging for a match ; he got neither matches nor courtesy ; 
on the contrary, a troop of bad little boys followed him 
around and amused themselves with nagging and annoying 
him. I assisted ; but at last, some appeal which the way- 
farer made for forbearance, accompanying it with a pathetic 
reference to his forlorn and friendless condition, touched 
such sense of shame and remnant of right feeling as were left 
in me, and I went away and got him some matches, and then 
hied me home and to bed, heavily weighted as to conscience, 
and unbuoyant in spirit. An hour or two afterward, the man 


was arrested and locked up in the calaboose by the marshal 
— large name for a constable, but that was his title. At two 
in the morning, the church bells rang for fire, and everybody 
turned out, of course — I with the rest. The tramp had used 
his matches disastrously : he had set his straw bed on fire, 
and the oaken sheathing of the room had caught. When I 
reached the ground, two hundred men, women, and children 
stood massed together, transfixed with horror, and staring 
at the grated windows of the jail. Behind the iron bars, and 
tugging frantically at them, and screaming for help, stood 
the tramp ; he seemed like a black object set against a sun, 
so white and intense was the light at his back. That mar- 
shal could not be found, and he had the only key. A batter- 
ing-ram was quickly improvised, and the thunder of its blows 
upon the door had so encouraging a sound that the spectators 
broke into wild cheering, and believed the merciful battle 
won. But it was not so. The timbers were too strong ; 
they did not yield. It was said that the man's death-grip 
still held fast to the bars after he was dead ; and that in 
this position the fires wrapped him about and consumed him. 
As to this, I do not know. What was seen after I recognized 
the face that was pleading through the bars was seen by 
others, not by me. 

I saw that face, so situated, every night for a long time 
afterward ; and I believed myself as guilty of the man's 
death as if I had given him the matches purposely that he 
might burn himself up with them. I had not a doubt that I 
should be hanged if my connection with this tragedy were 
found out. The happenings and the impressions of that time 
are burnt into my memory, and the study of them entertains 
me as much now as they themselves distressed me then. If 
anybody spoke of that grisly matter, I was all ears in a 
moment, and alert to hear what might be said, for I was 
always dreading and expecting to find out that I was sus- 
pected ; and so fine and so delicate was the perception of my 
guilty conscience, that it often detected suspicion in the most 



purposeless remarks, and in looks, gestures, glances of the 
eye which had no significance, but which sent me shivering 
away in a panic of fright, just the same. And how sick it 
made me when somebody dropped, howsoever carelessly and 
barren of intent, the remark that " murder will out ! " For 
a boy of ten years, I was carrying a pretty weighty cargo. 

All this time I was blessedly forgetting one thing — the 
fact that I was an inveterate talker in my sleep. But one 
night I awoke and found my bed-mate — my younger brother 
— sitting up in bed and contemplating me by the light of 

the moon. I said: — 
"What is the 
matter ? " 

" You talk so 
much I can't 

I came to a sit- 
ting posture in 
an instant, with 
my kidneys in my 
throat and my 
hair on end. 

"What did I 
say ? Quick — out 
with it — what did 
I say?" 


" Nothing much." 

" It 's a lie — you know everything." 

" Everything about what ? " 

" You know well enough. About thaV 

" About what ? — I don't know what you are talking about. 
I think you are sick or crazy or something. But anyway, 
you 're awake, and I '11 get to sleep while I 've got a chance." 

He fell asleep and I lay there in a cold sweat, turning this 
new terror over in the whirling chaos which did duty as my 
mind. The burden of my thought was, How much did I 


divulge ? How much does he know ? — what a distress is 
this uncertainty ! But by and by I evolved an idea — I would 
wake my brother and probe him with a supposititious case. 
I shook him up, and said — 

" Suppose a man should come to you drunk — " 

" This is foolish — I never get drunk." 

" I don't mean you, idiot — I mean the man. Suppose a 
man should come to you drunk, and borrow a knife, or a 
tomahawk, or a pistol, and you forgot to tell him it was 
loaded, and — " 

" How could you load a tomahawk ? " 

" I don't mean the tomahawk, and I did n't say the toma- 
hawk ; I said the pistol. Now don't you keep breaking in that 
way, because this is serious. There 's been a man killed." 

" What ! In this town ? " 

" Yes, in this town." 

" Well, go on — I won't say a single word." 

" Well, then, suppose you forgot to tell him to be careful 
with it, because it was loaded, and he went off and shot him- 
self with that pistol, — fooling with it, you know, and prob- 
ably doing it by accident, being drunk. Well, would it be 
murder ? " 

" No — suicide." 

" No, no. I don't mean his act, I mean yours : would you 
be a murderer for letting him have that pistol ? " 

After deep thought came this answer, — 

" Well, I should think I was guilty of something — maybe 
murder — yes, probably murder, but I don't quite know." 

This made me very uncomfortable. However, it was not 
a decisive verdict. I should have to set out the real case — 
there seemed to be no other way. But I would do it cau- 
tiously, and keep a watch out for suspicious effects. I 
said : — 

" I was supposing a case, but I am coming to the real one 
now. Do you know how the man came to be burned up in 
the calaboose ? " 


" No." 

" Have n't you the least idea ? " 

" Not the least." 

" Wish'you may die in your tracks if you have ?" 

" Yes, wish I may die in my tracks." 

" Well, the way of it was this. The man wanted some 
matches to light his pipe. A boy got him some. The man 
set fire to the calaboose with those very matches, and burnt 
himself up." 

" Is that so ? " 

" Yes, it is. Now, is that boy a murderer, do you think ? " 

" Let me see. The man was drunk ? " 

" Yes, he was drunk." 

" Very drunk ? " 

" Yes." 

" And the boy knew it ? " 

" Yes, he knew it." 

There was a long pause. Then came this heavy ver- 
dict : — 

"If the man was drunk, and the boy knew it, the boy 
murdered that man. This is certain." 

Faint, sickening sensations crept along all the fibres of my. 
body, and I seemed to know how a person feels who hears 
his death sentence pronounced from the bench. I waited 
to hear what my brother would say next. I believed I knew 
what it would be, and I was right. He said, — 

" I know the boy." 

I had nothing to say ; so I said nothing. I simply shud- 
dered. Then he added, — 

" Yes, before you got half through telling about the 
thing, I knew perfectly well who the boy was ; it was 
Ben Coontz!" 

I came out of my collapse as one who rises from the dead. 
I said, with admiration : — 

" Why, how in the world did you ever guess it ? " 

" You told it in your sleep." 



I said to myself, " How splendid that is ! This is a habit 
which must be cultivated." 

My brother rattled innocently on : — 

" When you were talking in your sleep, you kept mumbling 
something about ' matches,' which I could n't make anything 
out of ; but just now, when you began to tell me about the 
man and the calaboose and the matches, I remembered that 
in your sleep you mentioned Ben Coontz two or three times ; 
so I put this and that together, you see, and right away 1 
knew it was Ben that burnt that man up." 

I praised his sa- 
gacity effusively. 
Presently he 
asked, — 

" Are you going 
to give him up to 
the law ? " 

"No," I said; 
" I believe that 
this will be a 
lesson to him. 
I shall keep an 
eye on him, of 
course, for that is 
but right ; but if 
he stops where he is and reforms, it shall never be said that 
I betrayed him." 

" How good you are ! " 

" Well, I try to be. It is all a person can do in a world 
like this." 

And now, my burden being shifted to other shoulders, my 
terrors soon faded away. 

The day before we left Hannibal, a curious thing fell under 
my notice, — the surprising spread which longitudinal time 
undergoes there. I learned it from one of the most unosten- 
tatious of men, — the colored coachman of a friend of mine, 




who lives three miles from town. He was to call for me at 
the Park Hotel at 7.30 p. m., and drive me out. But he 
missed it considerably, — did not arrive till ten. He ex- 
cused himself by saying : — 

" De time is mos' an hour en a half slower in de country 
en what it is in de town; you'll be in plenty time, boss. 
Sometimes we shoves out early for church, Sunday, en 
fetches up dah right plum in de middle er de sermon. 
Diffunce in de time. A body can't make no calculations 
'bout it." 

I had lost two hours and a half ; but I had learned a fact 
worth four. 



FROM St. Louis northward there are all the enlivening 
signs of the presence of active, energetic, intelligent, 
prosperous, practical nineteenth-century populations. The 
people don't dream, they work. The happy result is manifest 
all around in the substantial outside aspect of things, and the 
suggestions of wholesome life and comfort that everywhere 

Quincy is a notable example, — a brisk, handsome, well- 
ordered city ; and now, as formerly, interested in art, letters, 
and other high things. 

But Marion City is an exception. Marion City has gone 
backwards in a most unaccountable way. This metropolis 
promised so well that the projectors tacked " city " to its 
name in the very beginning, with full confidence ; but it was 
bad prophecy. When I first saw Marion City, thirty-five 
years ago, it contained one street, and nearly or quite six 
houses. It contains but one house now, and this one, in' 
a state of ruin, is getting ready to follow the former five 
into the river. 

Doubtless Marion City was too near to Quincy. It had 
another disadvantage : it was situated in a flat mud bottom, 
below high-water mark, whereas Quincy stands high up on 
the slope of a hill. 

In the beginning Quincy had the aspect and ways of a 
model New England town : and these she has yet : broad, 
clean streets, trim, neat dwellings and lawns, fine mansions, 


stately blocks of commercial buildings. And there are 
ample fair-grounds, a well kept park, and many attractive 
drives ; library, reading-rooms, a couple of colleges, some 
handsome and costly churches, and a grand court-house, 
with grounds which occupy a square. The population of 
the city is thirty thousand. There are some large factories 
here, and manufacturing, of many sorts, is clone on a great 

La Grange and Canton are growing towns, but I missed 
Alexandria ; was told it was under water, but would come up 
to blow in the summer. 

Keokuk was easily recognizable. I lived there in 1857, — 
an extraordinary year there in real-estate matters. The 
" boom " was something wonderful. Everybody bought, 
everybody sold, — except widows and preachers ; they al- 
ways hold on ; and when the tide ebbs, they get left. Any- 
thing in the semblance of a town lot, no matter how situated, 
was salable, and at a figure which would still have been 
high if the ground had been sodded with greenbacks. 

The town has a population of fifteen thousand now, and is 
progressing with a healthy growth. It was night, and we 
could not see details, for which we were sorry, for Keokuk 
has the reputation of being a beautiful city. It was a pleas- 
ant one to live in long ago, and doubtless has advanced, not 
retrograded, in that respect. 

A mighty work which was in progress there in my day is 
finished now. This is the canal over the Rapids. It is eight 
miles long, three hundred feet wide, and is in no place less 
than six feet deep. Its masonry is of the majestic kind which 
the War Department usually deals in, and will endure like a 
Roman aqueduct. The work cost four or five millions. 

After an hour or two spent with former friends, we started 
up the river again. Keokuk, a long time ago, was an occa- 
sional loafing-placc of that erratic genius, Henry Clay Dean. 
I believe I never saw him but once ; but he was much talked 
of when I lived there. This is what was said of him : — 



He began life poor and without education. But he edu- 
cated himself — on the curb-stones of Keokuk. He would 
sit down on a curb-stone with his book, careless or uncon- 
scious of the clatter of commerce and the tramp of the pass- 
ing crowds, and bury himself in his studies by the hour, 
never changing his position except to draw in his knees now 
and then to let a dray pass unobstructed ; and when his book 
was finished, its contents, 
however abstruse, had been 
burnt into his memory, and 
were his permanent posses- 
sion. In this way he acquired 
a vast hoard of all sorts of 
learning, and had it pigeon- 
holed in his head where he 
could put his intellectual 
hand on it whenever it was 

His clothes differed in no 
respect from a " wharf-rat's," 
except that they were rag- 
geder, more ill-assorted and 
inharmonious (and therefore 
more extravagantly pictur- 
esque), and several layers 

dirtier. Nobody could infer the master-mind in the top of 
that edifice from the edifice itself. 

He was an orator, — by nature in the first place, and later 
by the training of experience and practice. When he was out 
on a canvass, his name was a loadstone which drew the far- 
mers to his stump from fifty miles around. His theme was 
always politics. He used no notes, for a volcano does not 
need notes. In 1862, a son of Keokuk's late distinguished 
citizen, Mr. Claggett, gave me this incident concerning Dean ; 

The war feeling was running high in Keokuk (in '61), and 
a great mass meeting was to be held on a certain day in the 



new Athenasuni. A distinguished stranger was to address 
the house. After the building had been packed to its utmost 
capacity with sweltering folk of both sexes, the stage still 
remained vacant, — the distinguished stranger had failed to 
connect. The crowd grew impatient, and by and by indig- 
nant and rebellious. About this time a distressed manager 
discovered Dean on a curb-stone, explained the dilemma to 
him, took his book away from him, rushed him into the 
building the back way, and told him to make for the stage 
and save his country. 

Presently a sudden silence fell upon the grumbling audi- 
ence, and everybody's eyes sought a single point, — the wide, 
empty, carpetless stage. A figure appeared there whose 
aspect was familiar to hardly a dozen persons present. It was 
the scarecrow Dean, — in foxy shoes, down at the heels ; socks 
of odd colors, also " down ; " damaged trousers, relics of anti- 
quity, and a world too short, exposing some inches of naked 
ankle ; an unbuttoned vest, also too short, and exposing a 
zone of soiled and wrinkled linen between it and the waist- 
band ; shirt bosom open ; long black handkerchief, wound 
round and round the neck like a bandage ; bob-tailed blue 
coat, reaching down to the small of the back, with sleeves 
which left four inches of forearm unprotected ; small, stiff- 
brimmed soldier-cap hung on a corner of the bump of — 
whichever bump it was. This figure moved gravely out upon 
the stage and, with sedate and measured step, down to the 
front, where it paused, and dreamily inspected the house, 
saying no word. The silence of surprise held its own 
for a moment, then was broken' by a just audible ripple of 
merriment which swept the sea of faces like the wash of a 
wave. The figure remained as before, thoughtfully inspect- 
ing. Another wave started, — laughter, this time. It was 
followed by another, then a third, — this last one boisterous. 

And now the stranger stepped back one pace, took off his 
soldier-cap, tossed it into the wing, and began to speak, with 
deliberation, nobody listening, everybody laughing and whis- 

"the house began to break into applause. 


pering. The speaker talked on unembarrassed, and presently 
delivered a shot which went home, and silence and attention 
resulted. He followed it quick and fast, with other telling 
things ; warmed to his work and began to pour his words 
out, instead of dripping them ; grew hotter and hotter, and 
fell to discharging lightnings and thunder, — and now the 
house began to break into applause, to which the speaker 
gave no heed, but went hammering straight on ; unwound 
his black bandage and cast it away, still thundering ; pres- 
ently discarded the bob-tailed coat and flung it aside, tiring up 
higher and higher all the time ; finally flung the vest after 
the coat ; and then for an untimed period stood there, like 
another Vesuvius, spouting smoke and flame, lava and ashes, 
raining pumice-stone and cinders, shaking the moral earth 
with intellectual crash upon crash, explosion upon explosion, 
while the mad multitude stood upon their feet in a solid body, 
answering back with a ceaseless hurricane of cheers, through 
a thrashing snow-storm of waving handkerchiefs. 

" When Dean came," said Claggett, " the people thought 
he was an escaped lunatic ; but when he went, they thought 
he was an escaped archangel." 

Burlington, home of the sparkling Burdette, is another 
hill city ; and also a beautiful one ; unquestionably so ; a 
fine and flourishing city, with a population of twenty-five 
thousand, and belted with busy factories of nearly every 
imaginable description. It was a very sober city, too — for 
the moment — for a most sobering bill was pending; a bill 
to forbid the manufacture, exportation, importation, pur- 
chase, sale, borrowing, lending, stealing, drinking, smelling, 
or possession, by conquest, inheritance, intent, accident, or 
otherwise, in the State of Iowa, of each and every deleterious 
beverage known to the human race, except water. This 
measure was approved by all the rational people in the 
State ; but not by the bench of Judges. 

Burlington has the progressive modern city's full equip- 
ment of devices for right and intelligent government ; 




including a paid fire department, a thing which the great 
city of New Orleans is without, but still employs that relic of 
antiquity, the independent system. 

In Burlington, as in all these Upper-River towns, one 
breathes a go-ahead atmosphere which tastes good in the 
nostrils. An opera-house has lately been built there which 


is in strong contrast with the shabby dens which usually 
do duty as theatres in cities of Burlington's size. 

We had not time to go ashore in Muscatine, but had a 
daylight view of it from the boat. I lived there awhile, 
many years ago, but the place, now, had a rather unfamiliar 
look ; so I suppose it has clear outgrown the town which I 
used to know. In fact, I know it has ; for I remember it 
as a small place — which it is n't now. But I remember 
it best for a lunatic who caught me out in the fields, one 
Sunday, and extracted a butcher-knife from his boot and 
proposed to carve me up with it, unless I acknowledged 


him to be the only son of the Devil. I tried to compromise 
on an acknowledgment that he was the only member of the 
family I had met ; but that did not satisfy him ; he would n't 
have any half-measures ; I must say he was the sole and 
only son of the Devil — and he whetted his knife on his 
boot. It did not seem worth while to make trouble about 
a little thing like that ; so I swung round to his view of the 
matter and saved my skin whole. Shortly afterward, he 
went to visit his father ; and as he has not turned up since, 
I trust he is there yet. 

And I remember Muscatine — still more pleasantly — for 
its summer sunsets. I have never seen any, on either side 
of the ocean, that equalled them. They used the broad 
smooth river as a canvas, and painted on it every imagina- 
ble dream of color, from the mottled daintinesses and deli- 
cacies of the opal, all the way up, through cumulative 
intensities, to blinding purple and crimson conflagrations 
which were enchanting to the eye, but sharply tried it at 
the same time. All the Upper Mississippi region has these 
extraordinary sunsets as a familiar spectacle. It is the true 
Sunset Land : I am sure no other country can show so good 
a right to the name. The sunrises are also said to be 
exceedingly fine. I do not know. 



" I "'HE big towns drop in, thick and fast, now : and between 
■*■ stretch processions of thrifty farms, not desolate soli- 
tude. Hour by hour, the boat plows 
deeper and deeper into the great and 
populous Northwest ; and with each 
successive section of 
it which is revealed, 
one's surprise and re- 
spect gather emphasis 


and increase. 

Such a people, and 

such achievements 

as theirs, compel 

" "-' f " "-"~< homage. This is 

an independent race who think for 

themselves, and who are competent to do it, because they 

are educated and enlightened ; they read, they keep abreast 


of the best and newest thought, they fortify every weak place 
in their land with a school, a college, a library, and a news- 
paper ; and they live under law. Solicitude for the future of 
a race like this is not in order. 

This region is new ; so new that it may be said to be still 
in its babyhood. By what it has accomplished while still 
teething, one may forecast what marvels it will do in the 
strength of its maturity. It is so new that the foreign 
tourist has not heard of it yet ; and has not visited it. For 
sixty years, the foreign tourist has steamed up and down 
the river between St. Louis and New Orleans, and then gone 
home and written his book, believing he had seen all of the 
river that was worth seeing or that had anything to see. In 
not six of all these books is there mention of these Upper- 
River towns — for the reason that the five or six tourists 
who penetrated this region did it before these towns were 
projected. The latest tourist of them all (1878) made the 
same old regulation trip — he had not heard that there was 
anything north of St. Louis. 

Yet there was. There was this amazing region, bristling 
with great towns, projected day before yesterday, so to 
speak, and built next morning. A score of them number 
from fifteen hundred to five thousand people. Then we 
have Muscatine, ten thousand ; Winona, ten thousand ; 
Moline, ten thousand ; Rock Island, twelve thousand ; La 
Crosse, twelve thousand ; Burlington, twenty-five thousand ; 
Dubuque, twenty-five thousand ; Davenport, thirty thou- 
sand ; St. Paul, fifty-eight thousand; Minneapolis, sixty thou- 
sand and upward. 

The foreign tourist has never heard of these ; there is no 
note of them in his books. They have sprung up in the 
night, while he slept. So new is this region, that I, who am 
comparatively young, am yet older than it is. When I was 
born, St. Paul had a population of three persons, Minne- 
apolis had just a third as many. The then population of 
Minneapolis died two .years ago ; and when he died he had 


seen himself undergo an increase, in forty years, of fifty- 
nine thousand nine hundred and ninety-nine persons. He 
had a frog's fertility. 

I must explain that the figures set down above, as the 
population of St. Paul and Minneapolis, are several months 
old. These towns are far larger now. In fact, I have just 
seen a newspaper estimate which gives the former seventy- 
one thousand, and the latter seventy-eight thousand. This 
book will not reach the public for six or seven months yet ; 
none of the figures will be worth much then. 

We had a glimpse of Davenport, which is another beauti- 
ful city, crowning a hill — a phrase which applies to all 
these towns ; for they are all comely, all well built, clean, 
orderly, pleasant to the eye, and cheering to the spirit; and 
they are all situated upon hills. Therefore we will give 
that phrase a rest. The Indians have a tradition that 
Marquette and Joliet camped where Davenport now stands, 
in 1673. The next white man who camped there, did it 
about a hundred and seventy years later — in 1834. Daven- 
port has gathered its thirty thousand people within the past 
thirty years. She sends more children to her schools now, 
than her whole population numbered twenty-three years ago. 
She has the usual Upper-River quota of factories, news- 
papers, and institutions of learning ; she has telephones, 
local telegraphs, an electric alarm, and an admirable paid 
fire department, consisting of six hook and ladder compa- 
nies, four steam fire engines, and thirty churches. Daven- 
port is the official residence of two bishops — Episcopal and 

Opposite Davenport is the flourishing town of Rock 
Island, which lies at the foot of the Upper Rapids. A 
great railroad bridge connects the two towns — one of the 
thirteen which fret the Mississippi and the pilots, between 
St. Louis and St. Paul. 

The charming island of Rock Island, three miles long 
and half a mile wide, belongs to the United States, and the 



Government has turned it into a wonderful park, enhancing 
its natural attractions by art, and threading its fine forests 
with many miles of drives. Near the centre of the island 
one catches glimpses, through the trees, of ten vast stone 
four-story buildings, each of which covers an acre of ground. 
These are the Government workshops ; for the Rock Island 
establishment is a national armory and arsenal. 

We move up the river — always through enchanting 
scenery, there being no other kind on the Upper Mississippi 
— and pass Mo- 
line, a centre of 
vast manufactur- 
ing industries ; 
and Clinton and 
Lyons, great lum- 
ber centres; 
and presently j| 
reach Dubuque, ~ 
which is situ- 
ated in a rich 
mineral region. 
The lead mines 
are very produc- 
tive, and of wide 
extent. Dubuque 
has a great num- 
ber of manufacturing establishments ; among them a plough 
factory which has for customers all Christendom in general. 
At least so I was told by an agent of the concern who was 
on the boat. He said : — 

" You show me any country under the sun where they 
really know how to plough, and if I don't show you our mark 
on the plough they use, I '11 eat that plough ; and I won't ask 
for any Woostershyre sauce to flavor it up with, either." 

All this part of the river is rich in Indian history and tra- 
ditions. Black Hawk's was once a puissant name hereabouts ; 



as was Keokuk's, further down. A few miles below Du- 
buque is the Tete de Mort — Death's-head rock, or bluff — 
to the top of which the French drove a band of Indians, in 
early times, and cooped them up there, with death for a 
certainty, and only the manner of it matter of choice — to 
starve, or jump off and kill themselves. Black Hawk 
adopted the ways of the white people, toward the end of his 
life ; and when he died he was buried, near Des Moines, in 
Christian fashion, modified by Indian custom ; that is to say, 
clothed in a Christian military uniform, and with a Christian 
cane in his hand, but deposited in the grave in a sitting 
posture. Formerly, a horse had always been buried with a 
chief. The substitution of the cane shows that Black Hawk's 
haughty nature was really humbled, and he expected to 
walk when he got over. 

We noticed that above Dubuque the water of the Missis- 
sippi was olive-green — rich and beautiful and semi-trans- 
parent, with the sun on it. Of course the water was nowhere 
as clear or of as fine a complexion as it is in some other sea- 
sons of the year ; for now it was at flood stage, and there- 
fore dimmed and blurred by the mud manufactured from 
caving banks. 

The majestic bluffs that overlook the river, along through 
this region, charm one with the grace and variety of their 
forms, and the soft beauty of their adornment. The steep 
verdant slope, whose base is at the water's edge, is topped by 
a lofty rampart of broken, turreted rocks, which are exqui- 
sitely rich and mellow in color — mainly dark browns and 
dull greens, but splashed with other tints. And then you 
have the shining river, winding here and there and yonder, its 
sweep interrupted at intervals by clusters of wooded islands 
threaded by silver Channels ; and you have glimpses of dis- 
tant villages, asleep upon capes; and of stealthy rafts slip- 
ping along in the shade of the forest walls ; and of white 
steamers vanishing around remote points. And it is all 
as tranquil and reposeful as dreamland, and has nothing 



this-worldly about it — nothing to hang a fret or a worry 

Until the unholy train comes tearing along — which it 
presently does, ripping the sacred solitude to rags and tat- 
ters with its devil's warwhoop and the roar and thunder of 
its rushing wheels — and straightway you are back in this 
world, and with one of its frets ready to hand for your enter- 
tainment : for you remember that this is the very road whose 


stock always goes down after you buy it, and always goes up 
again as soon as you sell it. It makes me shudder to this 
day, to remember that I once came near not getting rid of 
my stock at all. It must be an awful thing to have a rail- 
road left on your hands. 

The locomotive is in sight from the deck of the steamboat 
almost the whole way from St. Louis to St. Paul — eight 
hundred miles. These railroads have made havoc with the 
steamboat commerce. The clerk of our boat was a steam- 



boat clerk before these roads were built. In that day the 
influx of population was so great, and the freight business so 
heavy, that the boats were not able to keep up with the 
demands made upon their carrying capacity ; consequently 
the captains were very independent and airy — pretty " big- 
gity," as Uncle Remus would say. The clerk nut-shelled 
the contrast between the former time and the present, 
thus : — 

" Boat used to land — captain on hurricane roof — mighty 


stiff and straight — iron ramrod for a spine — kid gloves, 
plug tile, hair parted behind — man on shore takes off hat 
and says : — 

" ' Got twenty-eight tons of wheat, cap'n — be great favor 
if you can take them.' 

" Captain says : — 

" ' '11 take two of them ' — and don't even condescend to 
look at him. 


" But now-a-days the captain takes off his old slouch, and 
smiles all the way around to the back of his ears, and gets 
off a how which he has n't got any ramrod to interfere with, 
and says : — 

" ' Glad to see you, Smith, glad to see you — you 're look- 
ing well — have n't seen you looking so well for years — what 
you got for us ? ' 

" ' Nuth'n', says Smith ; and keeps his hat on, and just 
turns his back and goes to talking with somebody else. 

" Oh, yes, eight years ago, the captain was on top ; but it 's 
Smith's turn now. Eight years ago a boat used to go up 
the river with every stateroom full, and people piled five and 
six deep on the cabin floor ; and a solid deck-load of immi- 
grants and harvesters down below, into the bargain. To get 
a first-class stateroom, you 'd got to prove sixteen quarter- 
ings of nobility and four hundred years of descent, or be 
personally acquainted with the nigger that blacked the cap- 
tain's boots. But it 's all changed now ; plenty staterooms 
above, no harvesters below — there 's a patent self-binder 
now, and they don't have harvesters any more; they 've 
gone where the woodbine twineth — and they did n't go by 
steamboat, either ; went by the train." 

Up in this region we met massed acres of lumber rafts 
coming down — but not floating leisurely along, in the old- 
fashioned way, manned with joyous and reckless crews of 
fiddling, song-singing, whiskey-drinking, breakdown-dancing 
rapscallions ; no, the whole thing was shoved swiftly along 
by a powerful stern-wheeler, modern fashion, and the small 
crews were quiet, orderly men, of a sedate business aspect, 
with not a suggestion of romance about them anywhere. 

Along here, somewhere, on a black night, we ran some 
exceedingly narrow and intricate island-chutes by aid of the 
electric light. Behind was solid blackness — a crackless 
bank of it ; ahead, a narrow elbow of water, curving be- 
tween dense walls of foliage that almost touched our bows 
on both sides ; and here every individual leaf, and every 



individual ripple stood out in its natural color, and flooded 
with a glare as of noonday intensified. The effect was 
strange, and fine, and Aery striking. 

We passed Prairie du Chien, another of Father Marquette's 
camping-places ; and after some hours of progress through 
varied and beautiful scenery, reached La Crosse. Here is a 
town of twelve or thirteen thousand population, with electric 
lighted streets, and with blocks of buildings which are stately 
enough, and also architecturally fine enough, to command 
respect in any city. It is a choice town, and we made satis- 
factory use of the hour allowed us, in roaming it over, though 
the weather was rainier than necessary. 



WE added several passengers to our list, at La Crosse ; 
among others an old gentleman who had come to 
this northwestern region with the early settlers, and was 


familiar with every part of it. Pardonably proud of it, too. 
He said : — 

" You '11 find scenery between here and St. Paul that can 
give the Hudson points. You'll have the Queen's Bluff — 


seven hundred feet high, and just as imposing a spectacle as 
you can find anywheres ; and Trempeleau Island, which is n't 
like any other island in America, I believe, for it is a gigantic 
mountain, with precipitous sides, and is full of Indian tradi- 
tions, and used to be full of rattlesnakes; if you catch the sun 
just right there, you will have a picture that will stay with 
you. And above Winona you '11 have lovely prairies ; and 
then come the Thousand Islands, too beautiful for anything ; 
green ? why you never saw foliage so green, nor packed so 
thick ; it 's like a thousand plush cushions afloat on a look- 
ing-glass — when the water 's still ; and then the monstrous 
bluffs on both sides of the river — ragged, rugged, dark-com- 
plected — just the frame that 's wanted ; you always want a 
strong frame, you know, to throw up the nice points of a del- 
icate picture and make them stand out." 

The old gentleman also told us a touching Indian legend 
or two — but not very powerful ones. 

After this excursion into history, he came back to the 
scenery, and described it, detail by detail, from the Thousand 
Islands to St. Paul ; naming its names with such facility, 
tripping along his theme with such nimble and confident 
ease, slamming in a three-ton word, here and there, with 
such a complacent air of 't is n't-anything,-I-can-do-it-any-time- 
I-want-to, and letting off fine surprises of lurid eloquence at 
such judicious intervals, that I presently began to suspect — 

But no matter what I began to suspect. Hear him : — 

" Ten miles above Winona we come to Fountain City, 
nestling sweetly at the feet of cliffs that lift their awful 
fronts, Jovelike, toward the blue depths of heaven, bathing 
them in virgin atmospheres that have known no other con- 
tact save that of angels' wings. 

" And next we glide through silver waters, amid lovely 
and stupendous aspects of nature that attune our hearts to 
adoring admiration, about twelve miles, and strike Mount 
Vernon, six hundred feet high, with romantic ruins of a 
once first-class hotel perched far among the cloud shadows 



that mottle its dizzy heights — sole remnant of once-flourish- 
ing Mount Vernon, town of early days, now desolate and 
utterly deserted. 

" And so we move on. Past Chimney Rock we fly — noble 
shaft of six hundred fe,et ; then just before landing at Min- 
nieska our attention is attracted by a most striking promon- 
tory rising over five hundred feet — the ideal mountain 


pyramid. Its conic shape — thickly-wooded surface girding 
its sides, and its apex like that of a cone, cause the specta- 
tor to wonder at nature's workings. From its dizzy heights 
superb views of the forests, streams, bluffs, hills and dales 
below and beyond for miles are brought within its focus. 
What grander river scenery can be conceived, as we gaze 
upon this enchanting landscape, from the uppermost point 
of these bluffs upon the valleys below? The primeval 
wildness and awful loneliness of these sublime creations 



of nature and nature's God, excite feelings of unbounded 
admiration, and the recollection of which can never be 
effaced from the memory, as we view them in any direc- 

" Next we have the Lion's Head and the Lioness's Head, 
carved by nature's hand, to adorn and dominate the beaute- 


ous stream ; and then anon 

tlie river widens, and a most charming and magnificent view 
of the valley before us suddenly bursts upon our vision ; 
rugged hills, clad with verdant forests from summit to 
base, level prairie lands, holding in their lap the beautiful 
Wabasha, City of the Healing Waters, puissant foe of 
Bright's disease, and that grandest conception of nature's 
works, incomparable Lake Pepin — these constitute a picture 
whereon the tourist's eye may gaze uncounted hours, with 
rapture unappeased and unappeasable. 


"And so we glide along; in due time encountering those 
majestic domes, the mighty Sugar Loaf, and the sublime 
Maiden's Rock — which latter, romantic superstition has 
invested with a voice ; and oft-times as the birch canoe glides 
near, at twilight, the dusky paddler fancies he hears the 
soft sweet music of the long-departed Winona, darling of 
Indian song and story. 

" Then Frontenac looms upon our vision, delightful resort 
of jaded summer tourists ; then progressive Red Wing ; and 
Diamond Bluff, impressive and preponderous in its lone sub- 
limity; then Prescott and the St. Croix; and anon we see 
bursting upon us the domes and steeples of St. Paul, giant 
young chief of the North, marching with seven-league stride 
in the van of progress, banner-bearer of the highest and 
newest civilization, carving his beneficent way with the tom- 
ahawk of commercial enterprise, sounding the warwhoop 
of Christian culture, tearing off the reeking scalp of sloth 
and superstition to plant there the steam-plow and the school- 
house — ever in his front stretch arid lawlessness, ignorance, 
crime, despair ; ever in his wake bloom the jail, the gallows, 
and the pulpit; and ever — " 

" Have you ever travelled with a panorama ? " 

"I have formerly served in that capacity." 

My suspicion was confirmed. 

" Do you still travel with it ? " 

" No, she is laid up till the fall season opens. I am helping 
now to work up the materials for a Tourist's Guide which the 
St. Louis and St. Paul Packet Company are going to issue this 
summer for the benefit of travellers who go by that line." 

" When you were talking of Maiden's Rock, you spoke of 
the long-departed Winona, darling of Indian song and story. 
Is she the maiden of the rock ? — and are the two connected 
by legend ?" 

"Yes, and a very tragic and painful one. Perhaps the 
most celebrated, as well as the most pathetic, of all the 
legends of the Mississippi." 




We asked him to tell it. He dropped out of his conversa- 
tional vein and back into his lecture-gait without an effort, 
and rolled on as follows : — 

"A little distance above Lake City is a famous point 
known as Maiden's Rock, which is not only a picturesque 
spot, but is full of romantic interest from the event which 

gave it its name. Not many years 
ago this locality was a favorite 
resort for the Sioux Indians on 
account of the fine fishing and 
hunting to be had there, and large 
numbers of them were always to 
be found in this locality. Among 
the families which used to resort 
here, was one belonging to the tribe 
of Wabasha. We-no-na (first-born) 
was the name of a maiden who had 
plighted her troth to a lover be- 
longing to the same band. But her 
stern parents had promised her 
hand to another, a famous warrior, 
and insisted on her wedding him. 
The day was fixed by her parents, 
to her great grief. She appeared to 
accede to the proposal and accom- 
pany them to the rock, for the pur- 
pose of gathering flowers for the 
feast. On reaching the rock, We- 
no-na ran to its summit and ♦stand- 
ing on its edge upbraided her par- 
ents who were below, for their 
cruelty, and then singing a death-dirge, threw herself from 
the precipice and clashed them in pieces on the rock below." 
" Dashed who in pieces — her parents ? " 
" Yes." 
" Well, it certainly was a tragic business, as you say. 



And moreover, there is a startling kind of dramatic surprise 
about it which I was not looking for. It is a distinct 
improvement upon the threadbare form of Indian legend. 
There are fifty Lover's Leaps along the Mississippi from 
whose summit disappointed Indian girls have jumped, but 
this is the only jump in the lot that turned out in the right 
and satisfactory way. What became of Winona ? " 

" She was a good deal jarred up and jolted : but she got 
herself together and disappeared before the coroner reached 
the fatal spot ; and 't is said she sought and married her true 
love, and wandered with him to some distant clime, where 
she lived happy ever after, her gentle spirit mellowed and 
chastened by the romantic incident which had so early 
deprived her of the sweet guidance of a mother's love and 
a father's protecting arm, and thrown her, all unfriended, 
upon the cold charity of a censorious world." 

I was glad to hear the lecturer's description of the scenery, 
for it assisted my appreciation of what I saw of it, and enabled 
me to imagine such of it as we lost by the intrusion of night. 

As the lecturer remarked, this whole region is blanketed 
with Indian tales and traditions. But I reminded him that 
people usually merely mentioned this fact — doing it in a 
way to make a body's mouth water — and judiciously stopped 
there. Why ? Because the impression left, was that these 
tales were full of incident and imagination — a pleasant 
impression which would be promptly dissipated if the tales 
were told. I showed him a lot of this sort of literature 
which I had been collecting, and he confessed that it was 
poor stuff, exceedingly sorry rubbish ; and I ventured to add 
that the legends which he had himself told us were of this 
character, with the single exception of the admirable story 
of Winona. He granted these facts, but said that if I would 
hunt up Mr. Schoolcraft's book, published near fifty years 
ago, and now doubtless out of print, I would find some Indian 
inventions in it that were very far from being barren of inci- 
dent and imagination ; that the tales in Hiawatha were of this 


sort, and they came from Schoolcraft's book ; and that there 
were others in the same book which Mr. Longfellow could 
have turned into verse with good effect. For instance, there 
was the legend of " The Undying Head." He could not tell 
it, for many of the details had grown dim in his memory ; 
but he would recommend me to find it and enlarge my respect 
for the Indian imagination. He said that this tale, and most 
of the others in the book, were current among the Indians 
along this part of the Mississippi when he first came here ; 
and that the contributors to Schoolcraft's book had got them 
directly from Indian lips, and had written them down with 
strict exactness, and without embellishments of their own. 

I have found the book. The lecturer was right. There are 
several legends in it which confirm what he said. I will offer 
two of them — "The Undying Head," and " Peboan and Seeg- 
wun, an Allegory of the Seasons." The latter is used in Hia- 
watha ; but it is worth reading in the original form, if only 
that one may see how effective a genuine poem can be without 
the helps and graces of poetic measure and rhythm : — 


An old man was sitting alone in his lodge, by the side of a frozen 
stream. It was the close of winter, and his fire was almost out. 
He appeared very old and very desolate. His locks were white 
with age, and he trembled in every joint. Day after day passed in 
solitude, and he heard nothing but the sound of the tempest, sweep- 
ing before it the new-fallen snow. 

One day, as his fire was just dying, a handsome young man 
approached and entered his dwelling. His cheeks were red with 
the blood of youth, his eyes sparkled with animation, and a smile 
played upon his lips. He walked with a light and quick step. His 
forehead was bound with a wreath of sweet grass, in place of a war- 
rior's frontlet, and he carried a bunch of flowers in his hand. 

" Ah, my son," said the old man, " I am happy to see you. 
Come in. Come and tell me of your adventures, and what strange 
lands you have been to see. Let us pass the night together. I 


will tell you of my prowess and exploits, and what I can perform. 
You shall do the same, and we will amuse ourselves." 

He then drew from his sack a curiously wrought antique pipe, 
and having filled it with tobacco, rendered mild by a mixture of 
certain leaves, handed it to his guest. When this ceremony was 
concluded they began to speak. 

" I blow my breath," said the old man, " and the stream stands 
still. The water becomes stiff and hard as clear stone." 

" I breathe," said the young man, " and flowers spring up over 
the plain." 

" I shake my locks," retorted the old man, " and snow covers the 
land. The leaves fall from the trees at my command, and my breath 
blows them away. The birds get up from the water, and fly to a 
distant land. The animals hide themselves from my breath, and the 
very ground becomes as hard as flint." 

" I shake my ringlets," rejoined the young man, " and warm 
showers of soft rain fall upon the earth. The plants lift up their 
heads out of the earth, like the eyes of children glistening with 
delight. My voice recalls the birds. The warmth of my breath 
unlocks the streams. Music fills the groves wherever I walk, and 
all nature rejoices." 

At length the sun began to rise. A gentle warmth came over 
the place. The tongue of the old man became silent. The robin 
and bluebird began to sing on the top of the lodge. The stream 
began to murmur by the door, and the fragrance of growing herbs 
and flowers came softly on the vernal breeze. 

Daylight fully revealed to the young man the character of his 
entertainer. When he looked upon him, he had the icy visage of 
Pehoan. 1 Streams began to flow from his eyes. As the sun 
increased, he grew less and less in stature, and anon had melted 
completely away. Nothing remained on the place of his lodge-fire 
but the miskodeed, 2 a small white flower, with a pink border, which 
is one of the earliest species of northern plants. 

" The Undying Head " is a rather long tale, but it makes 
up in weird conceits, fairy-tale prodigies, variety of incident, 
and energy of movement, for what it lacks in brevity. 3 

1 Winter. 2 The trailing arbutus. 3 See Appendix D. 



WE reached St. Paul, at the head of navigation of the 
Mississippi, and there our voyage of two thousand 
miles from New Orleans ended. It is about a ten-day trip 

by steamer. It can probably be done quicker by rail. I 
judge so because I know that one may go by rail from St. 
Louis to Hannibal — a distance of at least a hundred and 


twenty miles — in seven hours. This is better than walking ; 
unless one is in a hurry. 

The season being far advanced when we were in New Or- 
leans, the roses and magnolia blossoms were falling ; but 
here in St. Paul it was the snow. In New Orleans we had 
caught an occasional withering breath from over a crater, 
apparently ; here in St. Paul we caught a frequent benumb- 
ing one from over a glacier, apparently. 

I am not trying to astonish by these statistics. No, it is 
only natural that there should be a sharp difference between 
climates which lie upon parallels of latitude which are one 
or two thousand miles apart. I take this position, and I 
will hold it and maintain it in spite of the newspapers. The 
newspaper thinks it is n't a natural thing ; and once a year, 
in February, it remarks, with ill-concealed exclamation points, 
that while we, away up here are fighting snow and ice, folks 
are having new strawberries and peas down South ; callas 
are blooming out of doors, and the people are complaining of 
the warm weather. The newspaper never gets done being 
surprised about it. It is caught regularly every February. 
There must be a reason for this ; and this reason must be 
change of hands at the editorial desk. You cannot surprise 
an individual more than twice with the same marvel — not 
even with the February miracles of the Southern climate ; 
but if you keep putting new hands at the editorial desk every 
year or two, and forget to vaccinate them against the annual 
climatic surprise, that same old thing is going to occur right 
along. Each year one new hand will have the disease, and 
be safe from its recurrence ; but this does not save the news- 
paper. No, the newspaper is in as bad case as ever ; it will 
forever have its new hand ; and so, it will break out with 
the strawberry surprise every February as long as it lives r 
The new hand is curable ; the newspaper itself is incurable. 
An act of Congress — no, Congress could not prohibit the 
strawberry surprise without questionably stretching its pow- 
ers. An amendment to the Constitution might fix the thing, 


and that is probably the best and quickest way to get at it. 
Under authority of such an amendment, Congress could then 
pass an act inflicting imprisonment for life for the first of- 
fence, and some sort of lingering death for subsequent ones ; 
and this, no doubt, would presently give us a rest. At the 
same time, the amendment and the resulting act and penal- 
ties might easily be made to cover various cognate abuses, 
such as the Annual-Veteran-who-has-Voted-for-Every-Presi- 
dent- f rom -Washington -do wn, - and-Walked - to-the-Polls-Yes- 
terday-with-as-Bright-an-Eye-and-as-Firm-a-Step-as-Ever, and 
ten or eleven other weary yearly marvels of that sort, and 
of the Oldest-Freemason, and Oldest-Printer, and Oldest- 
Baptist-Preacher, and Oldest-Alumnus sort, and Three-Chil- 
dren-Born-at-a-Birth sort, and so on, and so on. And then 
England would take it up and pass a law prohibiting the 
further use of Sidney Smith's jokes, and appointing a com- 
missioner to construct some new ones. Then life would be 
a sweet dream of rest and peace, and the nations would 
cease to long for heaven. 

But I wander from my theme. St. Paul is a wonderful 
town. It is put together in solid blocks of honest brick and 
stone, and has the air of intending to stay. Its post-office 
was established thirty-six years ago ; and by and by, when 
the postmaster received a letter, he carried it to Washington, 
horseback, to inquire what was to be done with it. Such is 
the legend. Two frame houses were built that year, and sev- 
eral persons were added to the population. A recent number 
of the leading St. Paul paper, the " Pioneer Press," gives some 
statistics which furnish a vivid contrast to that old state of 
things, to wit : Population, autumn of the present year (1882), 
71,000 ; number of letters handled, first half of the year, 
1,209,387 ; number of houses built during three-quarters of 
the year, 989 ; their cost, $3,186,000. The increase of let- 
ters over the corresponding six months of last year was fifty 
per cent. Last year the new buildings added to the city cost 
above $4,500,000. St. Paul's strength lies in her commerce 



— I mean his commerce. He is a manufacturing city, of 
course — all the cities of that region are — but he is peculi- 
arly strong in the matter of commerce. Last year his job- 
bing trade amounted to upwards of $52,000,000. 

He has a custom-house, and is building a costly 
capitol to replace the one recently burned — 
s the capital of the State. He 
churches without end ; and not 
the cheap poor kind, but the 
at the rich Protestant 
up, the kind that the 
Dr Irish "hired-girl" 
elights to erect. 
What a passion for 
building majestic 
churches the Irish 
hired-girl has. 
It is a fine thing 
for our archi- 
_ : . tecture ; but 
p> too often we 
"< enjoy her 
stately fanes 
without giv- 
ing her a grateful 
thought. In fact, 
instead of reflect- 
ing that " every brick and every stone in this beautiful 
edifice represents an ache or a pain, and a handful of sweat, 
and hours of heavy fatigue, contributed by the back and 
forehead and bones of poverty," it is our habit to forget these 
things entirely, and merely glorify the mighty temple itself, 
without vouchsafing one praiseful thought to its humble 
builder, whose rich heart and withered purse it symbolizes. 

This is a land of libraries and schools. St. Paul has three 
public libraries, and they contain, in the aggregate, some 



forty thousand books. He has one hundred and sixteen 
school-houses, and pays out more than seventy thousand 
dollars a year in teachers' salaries. 

There is an unusually fine railway station ; so large is it, 
in fact, that it seemed somewhat overdone, in the matter of 
size, at first ; but at the end of a few months it was perceived 
that the mistake was distinctly the other way. The error is 
to be corrected. 

The town stands on high ground ; it is about seven hun- 
dred feet above the sea level. It is so high that a wide view 
of river and lowland is offered from its streets. 

It is a very wonderful town indeed, and is not finished 
yet. All the streets are obstructed with building material, 
and this is being compacted into houses as fast as possible, 
to make room for more — for other people are anxious to 
build, as soon as they can get the use of the streets to pile 
up their bricks and stuff in. 

How solemn and beautiful is the thought, that the earliest 
pioneer of civilization, the van-leader of civilization, is never 
the steamboat, never the railroad, never the newspaper, never 
the Sabbath-school, never the missionary — but always whis- 
key ! Such is the case. Look history over ; you will see. 
The missionary comes after the whiskey — I mean he ar- 
rives after the whiskey has arrived ; next comes the poor 
immigrant, with axe and hoe and rifle ; next, the trader ; 
next, the miscellaneous rush ; next, the gambler, the despe- 
rado, the highwayman, and all their kindred in sin of both 
sexes ; and next, the smart chap who has bought up an old 
grant that covers all the land ; this brings the lawyer tribe ; 
the vigilance committee brings the undertaker. All these 
interests bring the newspaper ; the newspaper starts up poli- 
tics and a railroad ; all hands turn to and build a church and 
a jail, — and behold, civilization is established forever in the 
land. But whiskey, you see, was the van-leader in this 
beneficent work. It always is. It was like a foreigner — and 
excusable in a foreigner — to be ignorant of this great truth, 



and wander off into astronomy to borrow a symbol. But if 
he had been conversant with the facts, he would have said 

Westward the Jug of Empire takes its way. 

This great van-leader arrived upon the ground which St. 
Paul now occupies, in June, 1837. Yes, at that date, Pierre 
Parrant, a Canadian, built the first cabin, uncorked his jug, 


and began to sell whiskey to the Indians. The result is before 

All that I have said of the newness, briskness, swift pro- 
gress, wealth, intelligence, fine and substantial architecture, 
and general slash and go, and energy of St. Paul, will apply 
to his near neighbor, Minneapolis — with the addition that 
the latter is the bigger of the two cities. 

These extraordinary towns were ten miles apart, a few 
months ago, but were growing so fast that they may possibly 
be joined now, and getting along under a single mayor. At 
any rate, within five years from now there will be at least 
such a substantial ligament of buildings stretching between 
them and uniting them that a stranger will not be able to 



tell where the one Siamese twin leaves off and the other 
begins. Combined, they will then number a population of 
two hundred and fifty thousand, if they continue to grow as 
they are now growing. Thus, this centre of population at 
the head of Mississippi navigation, will then begin a rivalry 
as to numbers, with that centre of population at the foot of 
it — New Orleans. 

Minneapolis is situated at the falls of St. Anthony, which 
stretch across the river, fifteen hundred feet, and have a fall 


of eighty-two feet — a waterpower which, by art, has been 
made of inestimable value, business-wise, though somewhat 
to the damage of the Falls as a spectacle, or as a background 
against which to get your photograph taken. 

Thirty flouring mills turn out two million barrels of the 
very choicest of flour every year ; twenty sawmills produce 


two hundred million feet of lumber annually ; then there are 
woollen mills, cotton mills, paper and oil mills ; and sash, 
nail, furniture, barrel, and other factories, without number, 
so to speak. The great flouring-mills here and at St. Paul 
use the " new process " and mash the wheat by rolling, in- 
stead of grinding it. 

Sixteen railroads meet in Minneapolis, and sixty-five pas- 
senger trains arrive and depart daily. 

In this place, as in St. Paul, journalism thrives. Here there 
are three great dailies, ten weeklies, and three monthlies. 

There is a university, with four hundred students — and, 
better still, its good efforts are not confined to enlightening 
the one sex. There are sixteen public schools, with build- 
ings which cost $500,000 ; there are six thousand pupils 
and one hundred and twenty-eight teachers. There are 
also seventy churches existing, and a lot more projected. 
The banks aggregate a capital of $3,000,000, and the 
wholesale jobbing trade of the town amounts to $50,000,000 
a year. 

Near St. Paul and Minneapolis are several points of inter- 
est — Fort Snelling, a fortress occupying a river-bluff a hun- 
dred feet high ; the falls of Minnehaha ; White-bear Lake, 
and so forth. The beautiful falls of Minnehaha are suffi- 
ciently celebrated — they do not need a lift from me, in that 
direction. The .White-bear Lake is less known. It is a 
lovely sheet of water, and is being utilized as a summer 
resort by the wealth and fashion of the State. It has its 
club-house, and its hotel, with the modern improvements and 
conveniences ; its fine summer residences ; and plenty of 
fishing, hunting, and pleasant drives. There are a dozen 
minor summer resorts around about St. Paul and Minne- 
apolis, but the White-bear Lake is the resort. Connected 
with White-bear Lake is a most idiotic Indian legend. I 
would resist the temptation to print it here, if I could, but 
the task is beyond my strength. The guide-book names the 
preserver of the legend, and compliments his "facile pen." 


Without further comment or delay then, let us turn the said 
facile pen loose upon the reader : — 


Every spring, for perhaps a century, or as long as there has 
been a nation of red men, an island in the middle of White-bear 
Lake has been visited by a band of Indians for the purpose of 
making maple sugar. 

Tradition says that many springs ago, while upon this island, a 
young warrior loved and wooed the daughter of his chief, and it is 
said, also, the maiden loved the warrior. He had again and again 
been refused her hand by her parents, the old chief alleging that he 
was no brave, and his old consort called him a woman ! 

The sun had again set upon the " sugar-bush," and the bright 
moon rose high in the bright blue heavens, when the young warrior 
took down his flute and went out alone, once more to sing the story 
of his love, the mild breeze gently moved the two gay feathers in 
his head-dress, and as he mounted on the trunk of a leaning tree, 
the damp snow fell from his feet heavily. As he raised his flute 
to his lips, his blanket slipped from his well-formed shoulders, and 
lay partly on the snow beneath. He began his weird, wild love- 
song, but soon felt that he was cold, and as he reached back for 
his blanket, some unseen hand laid it gently on his shoulders ; it 
was the hand of his love, his guardian angel. She took her place 
beside him, and for the present they were happy ; for the Indian 
has a heart to love, and in this pride he is as noble as in his own 
freedom, which makes him the child of the forest. As the legend 
runs, a large white-bear, thinking, perhaps, that polar snows and 
dismal winter weather extended everywhere, took up his journey 
southward. He at length approached the northern shore of the 
lake which now bears his name, walked down the bank and made 
his way noiselessly through the deep heavy snow toward the island. 
It was the same spring ensuing that the lovers met. They had 
left their first retreat, and were now seated among the branches 
of a large elm which hung far over the lake. (The same tree 
is still standing, and excites universal curiosity and interest.) For 
fear of being detected, they talked almost in a whisper, and now, 



that they might get 
back to camp in good 
time and thereby 
avoid suspicion, they 
were just rising to 
return, when the 
maiden uttered a 
shriek which was 
heard at the camp, 
and bounding toward 
the young brave, she 
caught his blanket, 
but missed the direc- 
tion of her foot and 
fell, bearing the 
blanket with her into 
the great arms of the 
ferocious monster. 
Instantly every man, 
woman, and child of 
the band were upon 
the bank, but all un- 
armed. Cries and 
wailiugs went up from 
every mouth. What 
was to be done ? In 
the meantime this 
white and savage 
beast held the breath- 
less maiden in his 
huge grasp, and fon- 
dled with his precious 
prey as if he were 
used to scenes like 
this. One deafening 
yell from the lover 
warrior is heard above 

the cries of hundreds of his tribe, and dashing away to his wigwam 
he grasps his faithful knife, returns almost at a single bound to the 



scene of fear and fright, rushes out along the leaning tree to the spot 
where his treasure fell, and springing with the fury of a mad panther, 
pounced upon his prey. The animal turned, and with one stroke of 
his huge paw brought the lovers heart to heart, hut the next moment 
the warrior, with one plunge of the blade of his knife, opened the 
crimson sluices of death, and the dying bear relaxed his hold. 

That night there was no more sleep for the band or the lovers, 
and as the young and the old danced about the carcass of the dead 
monster, the gallant warrior was presented with another plume, and 
ere another moon had set he had a living treasure added to his 
heart. Their children for many years played upon the skin of the 
white-bear — from which the lake derives its name — and the maiden 
and the brave remembered long the fearful scene and rescue that 
made them one, for Kis-se-me-pa and Ka-go-ka could never forget 
their fearful encounter with the huge monster that came so near 
sending them to the happy hunting-ground. 

It is a perplexing business. First, she fell down out of 
the tree — she and the blanket ; and the bear caught her 
and fondled her — her and the blanket ; then she fell up 
into the tree again — leaving the blanket ; meantime the 
lover goes war-whooping home and comes back " heeled," 
climbs the tree, jumps down on the bear, the girl jumps 
down after him — apparently, for she was up the tree — 
resumes her place in the bear's arms along with the blanket, 
the lover rams his knife into the bear, and saves — whom, 
the blanket ? No — nothing of the sort. You get yourself 
all worked up and excited about that blanket, and then all 
of a sudden, just when a happy climax seems imminent, you 
are let down flat — nothing saved but the girl. Whereas, 
one is not interested in the girl ; she is not the prominent 
feature of the legend. Nevertheless, there you are left, and 
there you must remain ; for if you live a thousand years you 
will never know who got the blanket. A dead man could 
get up a better legend than this one. I don't mean a fresh 
dead man either ; I mean a man that 's been dead weeks and 



We struck the home-trail now, and in a few hours were 
in that astonishing Chicago — a city where they are always 
rubbing the lamp, and fetching up the genii, and contriving 
and achieving new impossibilities. It is hopeless for the 
occasional visitor to try to keep up with Chicago — she out- 
grows his prophecies faster than he can make them. She 
is always a novelty ; for she is never the Chicago you saw 
when you passed through the last time. The Pennsylvania 
road rushed us to New York without missing schedule time 
ten minutes anywhere on the route ; and there ended one 
of the most enjoyable five-thousand-mile journeys I have 
ever had the good fortune to make. 



[From the New-Orleans Times. Democrat, of March 29, 1882.] 


IT was nine o'clock Thursday morning when the " Susie " left 
the Mississippi and entered Old River, or what is now called the 
mouth of the Red. Ascending on the left, a flood was pouring in 
through and over the levees on the Chandler plantation, the most 
northern point in Pointe Coupee parish. The water completely 
covered the place, although the levees had given way but a short 
time before. The stock had been gathered in a large flat-boat, 
where, without food, as we passed, the animals were huddled 
together, waiting for a % boat to tow them off. On the right-hand 
side of the river is Turnbull's Island, and on it is a large plantation 
which formerly was pronounced one of the most fertile in the State. 
The water has hitherto allowed it to go scot-free in usual floods, but 
now broad sheets of water told only where fields were. The top of 
the protecting levee could be seen here and there, but nearly all of 
it was submerged. 

The trees have put on a greener foliage since the water has 
poured in, and the woods look bright and fresh, but this pleasant 
aspect to the eye is neutralized by the interminable waste of water. 
We pass mile after mile, and it is nothing but trees standing up to 
their branches in water. A water-turkey now and again rises and 
flies ahead into the long avenue of silence. A pirogue sometimes 
flits from the bushes and crosses the Red River on its way out to 


the Mississippi, but the sad-faced paddlers never turn their heads to 
look at our boat. The puffing of the boat is music in this gloom, 
which affects one most curiously. It is not the gloom of deep 
forests or dark caverns, but a peculiar kind of solemn silence 
and impressive awe that holds one perforce to its recognition. 
We passed two negro families on a raft tied up in the willows 
this morning. They were evidently of the well-to-do class, as 
they had a supply of meal and three or four hogs with them. 
Their rafts were about twenty feet square, and in front of an 
improvised shelter earth had been placed, on which they built their 

The current running down the Atchafalaya was very swift, the 
Mississippi showing a predilection in that direction, which needs 
only to be seen to enforce the opinion of that river's desperate 
endeavors to find a short way to the Gulf. Small boats, skiffs, 
pirogues, etc., are in great demand, and many have been stolen by 
piratical negroes, who take them where they will bring the greatest 
price. From what was told me by Mr. C. P. Ferguson, a planter 
near Red River Landing, whose place has just gone under, there is 
much suffering in the rear of that place. The negroes had given 
up all thoughts of a crevasse there, as the upper levee had stood so 
long, and when it did come they were at its mercy. On Thursday 
a number were taken out of trees and off of cabin roofs and brought 
in, many yet remaining. 

One does not appreciate the sight of earth until he has travelled 
through a flood. At sea one does not expect or look for it, but 
here, with fluttering leaves, shadowy forest aisles, house-tops barely 
visible, it is expected. In fact a grave-yard, if the mounds were 
above water, would be appreciated. The river here is known only 
because there is an opening in the trees, and that is all. It is 
in width, from Fort Adams on the left bank of the Mississippi to 
the bank of Rapides Parish, a distance of about sixty miles. A 
large portion of this was under cultivation, particularly along the 
Mississippi and back of the Red. When Red River proper was 
entered, a strong current was running directly across it, pursuing the 
same direction as that of the Mississippi. 

After a run of some hours, Black River was reached. Hardly 
was it entered before signs of suffering became visible. All the wil- 
lows along the banks were stripped of their leaves. One man, whom 


your correspondent spoke to, said that he had had one hundred and 
fifty head of cattle and one hundred head of hogs. At the first ap- 
pearance of water he had started to drive them to the high lands of 
Avoyelles, thirty-five miles off, but he lost fifty head of the beef 
cattle and sixty hogs. Black River is quite picturesque, even if its 
shores are under water. A dense growth of ash, oak, gum, and hick- 
ory make the shores almost impenetrable, and where one can get a 
view down some avenue in the trees, only the dim outlines of distant 
trunks can be barely distinguished in the gloom. 

A few miles up this river, the depth of water on the banks was 
fully eight feet, and on all sides could be seen, still holding against 
the strong current, the tops of cabins. Here and there one over- 
turned was surrounded by drift-wood, forming the nucleus of pos- 
sibly some future island. 

In order to save coal, as it was impossible to get that fuel at any 
point to be touched during the expedition, a lookout was kept for a 
wood-pile. On rounding a point a pirogue, skilfully paddled by a 
youth, shot out, and in its bow was a girl of fifteen, of fair face, 
beautiful black eyes, and demure manners. The boy asked for a 
paper, which was thrown to him, and the couple pushed their tiny 
craft out into the swell of the boat. 

Presently a little girl, not certainly over twelve years, paddled 
out in the smallest little canoe and handled it with all the deftness of 
an old voyageur. The little one looked more like an Indian than a 
white child, and laughed when asked if she were afraid. She had 
been raised in a pirogue and could go anywhere. She was bound 
out to pick willow leaves for the stock, and she pointed to a house 
near by with water three inches deep on the floors. At its back 
door was moored a raft about thirty feet square, with a sort of fence 
built upon it, and inside of this some sixteen cows and twenty hogs 
were standing. The family did not complain, except on account 
of losing their stock, and promptly brought a supply of wood in a 

From this point to the Mississippi River, fifteen miles, there is 
not a spot of earth above water, and to the westward for thirty-five 
miles there is nothing but the river's flood. Black River had risen 
during Thursday, the 23d, If inches, and was going up at night still. 
As we progress up the river habitations become more frequent, but 
are yet still miles apart. Nearly all of them are deserted, and the 


out-houses floated off. To add to the gloom, almost every living 
thing seems to have departed, and not a whistle of a bird nor the 
bark of the squirrel can be heard in this solitude. Sometimes a 
morose gar will throw his tail aloft and disappear in the river, but 
beyond this everything is quiet — the quiet of dissolution. Down the 
river floats now a neatly whitewashed hen-house, then a cluster of 
neatly split fence-rails, or a door and a bloated carcass, . solemnly 
guarded by a pair of buzzards, the only bird to be seen, which feast 
on the carcass as it bears them along. A picture-frame in which 
there was a cheap lithograph of a soldier on horseback, as it floated 
on told of some hearth invaded by the water and despoiled of this 

At dark, as it was not prudent to run, a place alongside the 
woods was hunted and to a tall gum-tree the boat was made fast for 
the night. 

A pretty quarter of the moon threw a pleasant light over forest 
and river, making a picture that would be a delightful piece of land- 
scape study, could an artist only hold it down to his canvas. The 
motion of the engines had ceased, the puffing of the escaping steam 
was stilled, and the enveloping silence closed upon us, and such 
silence it was ! * Usually in a forest at night one can hear the piping 
of frogs, the hum of insects, or the dropping of limbs ; but here nature 
was dumb. The dark recesses, those aisles into this cathedral, gave 
forth no sound, and even the ripplings of the current die away. 

At daylight Friday morning all hands were up, and up the Black 
we started. The morning was a beautiful one, and the river, which 
is remarkably straight, put on its loveliest garb. The blossoms 
of the haw perfumed the air deliciously, and a few birds whistled 
blithely along the banks. The trees were larger, and the forest 
seemed of older growth than below. More fields were passed than 
nearer the mouth, but the same scene presented itself — smoke- 
houses drifting out in the pastures, negro quarters anchored in con- 
fusion against some oak, and the modest residence just showing its 
eaves above water. The sun came up in a glory of carmine, and 
the trees were brilliant in their varied shades of green. Not a foot 
of soil is to be seen anywhere, and the water is apparently growing 
deeper and deeper, for it reaches up to the branches of the largest 
trees. All along, the bordering willows have been denuded of leaves, 
showing how long the people have been at work gathering this fod- 


der for their animals. An old man in a pirogue was asked how the 
willow leaves agreed with his cattle. He stopped in his work, and 
with an ominous shake of his head replied : " Well, sir, it 's enough 
to keep warmth in their bodies and that 's all we expect, but it 's 
hard on the hogs, particularly the small ones. They is dropping off 
powerful fast. But what can you do ? It 's all we 've got." 

At thirty miles above the mouth of Black River the water 
extends from Natchez on the Mississippi across to the pine hills 
of Louisiana, a distance of seventy-three miles, and there is hardly 
a spot that is not ten feet under it. The tendency of the current 
up the Black is toward the west. In fact, so much is this the case, 
the waters of Red River have been driven down from toward the 
Calcasieu country, and the waters of the Black enter the Red some 
fifteen miles above the mouth of the former, a thing never before 
seen by even the oldest steamboatmen. The water now in sight of 
us is entirely from the Mississippi. 

Up to Trinity, or rather Troy, which is but a short distance 
below, the people have nearly all moved out, those remaining hav- 
ing enough for their present personal needs. Their cattle, though, 
are suffering and dying off quite fast, as the confinement on rafts 
and the food they get breeds disease. 

After a short stop we started, and soon came to a section where 
there were many open fields and cabins thickly scattered about. 
Here were seen more pictures of distress. On the inside of the 
houses the inmates had built on boxes a scaffold on which they 
placed the furniture. The bed-posts were sawed off on top, as the 
ceiling was not more than four feet from the improvised floor. The 
buildings looked very insecure, and threaten every moment to float 
off. Near the houses were cattle standing breast high in the water, 
perfectly impassive. They did not move in their places, but stood 
patiently waiting for help to come. The sight was a distressing one, 
and the poor creatures will be sure to die unless speedily rescued. 
Cattle differ from horses in this peculiar quality. A horse, after find- 
ing no relief comes, will swim off in search of food, whereas a beef 
will stand in its tracks until with exhaustion it drops in the water 
and drowns. 

At half-past twelve o'clock a hail was given from a flat-boat 
inside the line of the bank. Rounding to we ran alongside, and 
General York stepped aboard. He was just then engaged in getting 


off stock, and welcomed the " Times-Democrat Boat " heartily, as 
he said there was much need for her. He said that the distress was 
not exaggerated in the least. People were in a condition it was dif- 
ficult even for one to imagine. The water was so high there was 
great danger of their houses being swept away. It had already risen 
so high that it was approaching the eaves, and when it reaches this 
point there is always imminent risk of their being swept away. If 
this occurs, there will be great loss of life. The General spoke of 
the gallant work of many of the people in their attempts to save 
their stock, but thought that fully twenty-five per cent had perished. 
Already twenty-five hundred people had received rations from Troy, 
on Black River, and he had towed out a great many cattle, but a 
very great quantity remained and were in dire need. The water was 
now eighteen inches higher than in 1874, and there was no land 
between Vidalia and the hills of Catahoula. 

At two o'clock the " Susie " reached Troy, sixty-five miles above 
the mouth of Black River. Here on the left comes in Little River; 
just beyond that the Ouachita, and on the right the Tensas. These 
three rivers form the Black River. Troy, or a portion of it, is 
situated on and around three large Indian mounds, circular in 
shape, which rise above the present water about twelve feet. They 
are about one hundred and fifty feet in diameter and are about 
two hundred yards apart. The houses are all built between these 
mounds, and hence are all flooded to a depth of eighteen inches on 
their floors. 

These elevations, built by the aborigines hundreds of years ago, 
are the only points of refuge for miles. When we arrived we found 
them crowded with stock, all of which was thin and hardly able to 
stand up. They were mixed together, sheep, hogs, horses, mules, 
and cattle. One of these mounds has been used for many years as 
the grave-yard, and to-day we saw attenuated cows lying against the 
marble tomb-stones, chewing their cud in contentment, after a meal 
of corn furnished by General York. Here, as below, the remark- 
able skill of the women and girls in the management of the smaller 
pirogues was noticed. Children were paddling about in these most 
ticklish crafts with all the nonchalance of adepts. 

General York has put into operation a perfect system in regard to 
furnishing relief. He makes a personal inspection of the place where 
it is asked, sees what is necessary to be done, and then, having two 


boats chartered, with flats, sends them promptly to the place, when 
the cattle are loaded and towed to the pine hills and uplands of 
Catahoula. He has made Troy his headquarters, and to this point 
boats come for their supply of feed for cattle. On the opposite side 
of Little River, which branches to the left out of Black, and between 
it and the Ouachita, is situated the town of Trinity, which is hourly 
threatened with destruction. It is much lower than Troy, and the 
water is eight and nine feet deep in the houses. A strong current 
sweeps through it, and it is remarkable that all of its houses have 
not gone before. The residents of both Troy and Trinity have 
been cared for, yet some of their stock have to be furnished with 

As soon as the " Susie " reached Troy, she was turned over to 
General York and placed at his disposition to carry out the work of 
relief more rapidly. Nearly all her supplies were landed on one 
of the mounds to lighten her, and she was headed down stream to 
relieve those below. At Tom Hooper's place, a few miles from 
Troy, a large flat, with about fifty head of stock on board, was taken 
in tow. The animals were fed, and soon regained some strength. 
To-day we go on Little River, where the suffering is greatest. 


Saturday Evening, March 25. 

We started down Black River quite early, under the direction of 
General York, to bring out what stock could be reached. Going 
down river a flat in tow was left in a central locality, and from there 
men poled her back in the rear of plantations, picking up the 
animals wherever found. In the loft of a gin-house there were 
seventeen head found, and after a gangway was built they were led 
down into the flat without difficulty. Taking a skiff with the Gen- 
eral, your reporter was pulled up to a little house of two rooms, 
in which the water was standing two feet on the floors. In one of 
the large rooms were huddled the horses and cows of the place, 
while in the other the Widow Taylor and her son were seated on a 
scaffold raised on the floor. One or two dug-outs were drifting 
about in the room ready to be put in service at any time. When 


the flat was brought up, the side of the house was cut away as the 
only means of getting the animals out, and the cattle were driven on 
board the boat. General York, in this as in every case, inquired if 
the family desired to leave, informing them that Major Burke, of 
" The Times-Democrat," has sent the " Susie " up for that purpose. 
Mrs. Taylor said she thanked Major Burke, but she would try and 
hold out. The remarkable tenacity of the people here to their 
homes is beyond all comprehension. Just below, at a point sixteen 
miles from Troy, information was received that the house of Mr. 
Tom Ellis was in danger, and his family were all in it. We steamed 
there immediately, and a sad picture was presented. Looking out of 
the half of the window left above water was Mrs. Ellis, who is in 
feeble health, whilst at the door were her seven children, the oldest 
not fourteen years. One side of the house was given up to the work 
animals, some twelve head, besides hogs. In the next room the 
family lived, the water coming within two inches of the bed-rail. 
The stove was below water, and the cooking was done on a fire on 
top of it. The house threatened to give way at any moment : one 
end of it was sinking, and, in fact, the building looked a mere shell. 
As the boat rounded to, Mr. Ellis came out in a dug-out, and General 
York told him that he had come to his relief ; that " The Times- 
Democrat " boat was at his service, and would remove his family at 
once to the hills, and on Monday a flat would take out his stock, as, 
until that time, they would be busy. Notwithstanding the deplorable 
situation himself and family were in, Mr. Ellis did not want to leave. 
He said he thought he would wait until Monday, and take the risk 
of his house falling. The children around the door looked perfectly 
contented, seeming to care little for the danger they were in. These 
are but two instances of the many. After weeks of privation and 
suffering, people still cling to their houses and leave only when there 
is not room between the water and the ceiling to build a scaffold on 
which to stand. It seemed to be incomprehensible, yet the love for 
the old place was stronger than that for safety. 

After leaving the Ellis place, the next spot touched at was the 
Oswald place. Here the flat was towed alongside the gin-house 
where there were fifteen head standing in water ; and yet, as they 
stood on scaffolds, their heads were above the top of the entrance. 
It was found impossible to get them out without cutting away a por- 
tion of the front ; and so axes were brought into requisition and a 


gap made. After much labor the horses and mules were securely 
placed on the flat. 

At each place we stop there are always three, four, or more dug- 
outs arriving, bringing information of stock in other places in need. 
Notwithstanding the fact that a great many had driven a part of 
their stock to the hills some time ago, there yet remains a large 
quantity, which General York, who is working with indomitable 
energy, will get landed in the pine hills by Tuesday. 

All along Black River the " Susie " has been visited by scores of 
planters, whose tales are the repetition of those already heard of 
suffering and loss. An old planter, who has lived on the river since 
1844, said there never was such a rise, and he was satisfied more 
than one quarter of the stock has been lost. Luckily the people 
cared first for their work stock, and when they could find it horses 
and mules were housed in a place of safety. The rise which still 
continues, and was two inches last night, compels them to get them 
out to the hills ; hence it is that the work of General York is 
of such a great value. From daylight to late at night he is going 
this way and that, cheering by his kindly words and directing with 
calm judgment what is to be done. One unpleasant story, of a cer- 
tain merchant in New Orleans, is told all along the river. It ap- 
pears for some years past the planters have been dealing with this 
individual, and many of them had balances in his hands. When 
the overflow came they wrote for coffee, for meal, and, in fact, for 
such little necessities as were required. No response to these letters 
came, and others were written, and yet these old customers, with 
plantations under water, were refused even what was necessary to 
sustain life. It is needless to say he is not popular now on Black 

The hills spoken of as the place of refuge for the people and 
stock on Black River are in Catahoula parish, twenty-four miles 
from Black River. 

After filling the flat with cattle we took on board the family of 
T. S. Hooper, seven in number, who could not longer remain in 
their dwelling, and we are now taking them up Little River to the 



Trot, March 27, 1882, noon. 

The flood here is rising about three and a half inches every 
twenty-four hours, and rains have set in which will increase this. 
General York feels now that our efforts ought to be directed to- 
wards saving life, as the increase of the water has jeopardized many 
houses. We intend to go up the Tensas in a few minutes, and then 
we will return and go down Black River to take off families. There 
is a lack of steam transportation here to meet the emergency. The 
General has three boats chartered, with flats in tow, but the demand 
for these to tow out stock is greater than they can meet with prompt- 
ness. All are working night and day, and the " Susie " hardly stops 
for more than an hour anywhere. The rise has placed Trinity in a 
dangerous plight, and momentarily it is expected that some of the 
houses will float off. Troy is a little higher, yet all are in the water. 
Reports have come in that a woman and child have been washed 
away below here, and two cabins floated off. Their occupants are 
the same who refused to come off day before yesterday. One would 
not believe the utter passiveness of the people. 

As yet no news has been received of the steamer " Delia," which 
is supposed to be the one sunk in yesterday's storm on Lake Cata- 
houla. She is due here now, but has not arrived. Even the mail 
here is most uncertain, and this I send by skiff to Natchez to get it 
to you. It is impossible to get accurate data as to past crops, etc., 
as those who know much about the matter have gone, and those 
who remain are not well versed in the production of this section. 

General York desires me to say that the amount of rations for- 
merly sent should be duplicated and sent at once. It is impossible 
to make any estimate, for the people are fleeing to the hills, so rapid 
is the rise. The residents here are in a state of commotion that can 
only be appreciated when seen, and complete demoralization has 
set in. 

If rations are drawn for any particular section hereabouts, they 
would not be certain to be distributed, so everything should be sent 
to Troy as a centre, and the General will have it properly disposed 
of. He has sent for one hundred tents, and, if all go to the hills who 
are in motion now, two hundred will be required. 



The condition of this rich valley of the Lower Mississippi, imme- 
diately after and since the war, constituted one of the disastrous 
effects of war most to be deplored. Fictitious property in slaves 
was not only righteously destroyed, but very much of the work 
which had depended upon the slave labor was also destroyed or 
greatly impaired, especially the levee system. 

It might have been expected by those who have not investigated 
the subject, that such important improvements as the construction 
and maintenance of the levees would have been assumed at once by 
the several States. But what can the State do where the people 
are under subjection to rates of interest ranging from 18 to 30 per 
cent, and are also under the necessity of pledging their crops in 
advance even of planting, at these rates, for the privilege of pur- 
chasing all of their supplies at 100 per cent profit? 

It has needed but little attention to make it perfectly obvious that 
the control of the Mississippi River, if undertaken at all, must be 
undertaken by the national government, and cannot be compassed 
by States. The river must be treated as a unit ; its control cannot 
be compassed under a divided or separate system of administration. 

Neither are the States especially interested competent to combine 
among themselves for the necessary operations. The work must 
begin far up the river ; at least as far as Cairo, if not beyond ; and 
must be conducted upon a consistent general plan throughout the 
course of the river. 

It does not need technical or scientific knowledge to comprehend 
the elements of the case if one will give a little time and attention to 
the subject, and when a Mississippi River commission has been con- 
stituted, as the existing commission is, of thoroughly able men of 
different walks in life, may it not be suggested that their verdict in 
the case should be accepted as conclusive, so far as any a priori the- 
ory of construction or control can be considered conclusive ? 

It should be remembered that upon this board are General Gil- 
more, General Comstock, and General Suter, of the United States 
Engineers ; Professor Henry Mitchell (the most competent author- 
ity on the question of hydrography), of the United States Coast 


Survey ; B. B. Harrod, the State Engineer of Louisiana ; Jas. B. 
Eacls, whose success with the jetties at New Orleans is a warrant of 
his competency, and Judge Taylor, of Indiana. 

It would be presumption on the part of any single man, however 
skilled, to contest the judgment of such a board as this. 

The method of improvement proposed by the commission is at 
once in accord with the results of engineering experience and with 
observations of nature where meeting our wants. As in nature the 
growth of trees and their proneness where undermined to fall across 
the slope and support the bank secures at some points a fair depth of 
channel and some degree of permanence, so in the project of the 
engineer the use of timber and brush and the encouragement of for- 
est growth are the main features. It is proposed to reduce the 
width where excessive by brushwood dykes, at first low, but raised 
higher and higher as the mud of the river settles under their shelter, 
and finally slope them back at the angle upon which willows will 
grow freely. In this work there are many details connected with 
the forms of these shelter dykes, their arrangements so as to present 
a series of settling basins, etc., a description of which would only 
complicate the conception. Through the larger part of the river 
works of contraction will not be required, but nearly all the banks 
on the concave side of the bends must be held against the wear of 
the stream, and much of the opposite banks defended at critical 
points. The works having in view this conservative object may be 
generally designated works of revetment; and these also will be 
largely of brushwood, woven in continuous carpets, or twined into 
wire-netting. This veneering process has been successfully employed 
on the Missouri River ; and in some cases they have so covered them- 
selves with sediments, and have become so overgrown with willows, 
that they may be regarded as permanent. In securing these mats 
rubble-stone is to be used in small quantities, and in some instances 
the dressed slope between high and low river will have to be more 
or less paved with stone. 

Any one who has been on the Rhine will have observed operations 
not unlike those to which we have just referred ; and, indeed, most 
of the rivers of Europe flowing among their own alluvia have 
required similar treatment in the interest of navigation and agri- 

The levee is the crowning work of bank revetment, although not 


necessarily in immediate connection. It may be set back a short 
distance from the revetted bank ; but it is, in effect, the requisite para- 
pet. The flood river and the low river cannot be brought into regis- 
ter, and compelled to unite in the excavation of a single permanent 
channel, without a complete control of all the stages ; and even the 
abnormal rise must be provided against, because this would endanger 
the levee, and once in force behind the works of revetment would 
tear them also away. 

Under the general principle that the local slope of a river is the 
result and measure of the resistance of its bed, it is evident that a 
narrow and deep stream should have less slope, because it has less 
frictional surface in proportion to capacity ; i. e., less perimeter in 
proportion to area of cross section. The ultimate effect of levees 
and revetments confining the floods and bringing all the stages of the 
river into register is to deepen the channel and let down the slope. 
The first effect of the levees is to raise the surface ; but this, by 
inducing greater velocity of flow, inevitably causes an enlargement 
of section, and if this enlargement is prevented from being made at 
the expense of the banks, the bottom must give way and the form of 
the waterway be so improved as to admit this flow with less rise. 
The actual experience with levees upon the Mississippi River, with 
no attempt to hold the banks, has been favorable, and no one can 
doubt, upon the evidence furnished in the reports of the commission, 
that if the earliest levees had been accompanied by revetment of 
banks, and made complete, we should have to-day a river navigable 
at low water and an adjacent country safe from inundation. 

Of course it would be illogical to conclude that the constrained 
river can ever lower its flood slope so as to make levees unnecessary, 
but it is belteved that, by this lateral constraint, the river as a 
conduit may be so improved in form that even those rare floods 
which result from the coincident rising of many tributaries will find 
vent without destroying levees of ordinary height. That the actual 
capacity of a channel through alluvium depends upon its service 
during floods has been often shown, but this capacity does not 
include anomalous, but recurrent, floods. 

It is hardly worth while to consider the projects for relieving the 
Mississippi River floods by creating new outlets, since these sensa- 
tional propositions have commended themselves only to unthinking 
minds, and have no support among engineers. Were the river bed 


cast-iron, a resort to openings for surplus waters might be a neces- 
sity ; but as the bottom is yielding, and the best form of outlet is a 
single deep channel, as realizing the least ratio of perimeter to area 
of cross section, there could not well be a more unphilosophical 
method of treatment than the multiplication of avenues of escape. 

In the foregoing statement the attempt has been made to condense 
in as limited a space as the importance of the subject would permit, 
the general elements of the problem, and the general features of the 
proposed method of improvement which has been adopted by the 
Mississippi River Commission. 

The writer cannot help feeling that it is somewhat presumptuous 
on his part to attempt to present the facts relating to an enterprise 
which calls for the highest scientific skill ; but it is a matter which 
interests every citizen of the United States, and is one of the meth- 
ods of reconstruction which ought to be approved. It is a war 
claim which implies no private gain, and no compensation except for 
one of the cases of destruction incident to war, which may well be 
repaired by the people of the whole country. 

Edward Atkinson. 

Boston, April 14, 1882. 



Having now arrived nearly at the end of our travels, I am 
induced, ere I conclude, again to mention what I consider as 
one of. the most remarkable traits in the national character of the 
Americans ; namely, their exquisite sensitiveness and soreness re- 
specting everything said or written concerning them. Of this, 
perhaps, the most remarkable example I can give is the effect pro- 
duced on nearly every class of readers by the appearance of Captain 
Basil Hall's " Travels in North America." In fact, it was a sort 
of moral earthquake, and the vibration it occasioned through the 
nerves of the republic, from one corner of the Union to the other, 


was by no means over when I left the country in July, 1831, a 
couple of years after the shock. 

I was in Cincinnati when these volumes came out, but it was not 
till July, 1830, that I procured a copy of them. One bookseller 
to whom I applied told me that he had had a few copies before 
he understood the nature of the work, but that, after becoming 
acquainted with it, nothing shoidd induce him to sell another. Other 
persons of his profession must, however, have been less scrupulous ; 
for the book was read in city, town, village, and hamlet, steamboat, 
and stage-coach, and a sort of war-whoop was sent forth perfectly 
unprecedented in my recollection upon any occasion whatever. 

An ardent desire for approbation, and a delicate sensitiveness 
under censure, have always, I believe, been considered as amiable 
traits of character ; but the condition into which the appearance of 
Captain Hall's work threw the republic shows plainly that these 
feelings, if carried to excess, produce a weakness which amounts 
to imbecility. 

It was perfectly astonishing to hear men who, on other subjects, 
were of some judgment utter their opinions upon this. I never 
heard of any instance in which the common-sense generally found 
in national criticism was so overthrown by passion. I do not speak 
of the want of justice, and of fair and liberal interpretation : these, 
perhaps, were hardly to be expected. Other nations have been 
called thin-skinned, but the citizens of the Union have, apparently, 
no skins at all ; they wince if a breeze blows over them, unless it 
be tempered with adulation. It was not, therefore, very surprising 
that the acute and forcible observations of a traveller they knew 
would be listened to should be received testily. The extraordinary 
features of the business were, first, the excess of the rage into which 
they lashed themselves ; and, secondly, the puerility of the inven- 
tions by which they attempted to account for the severity with 
which they fancied they had been treated. 

Not content with declaring that the volumes contained no word 
of truth from beginning to end (which is an assertion I heard made 
very nearly as often as they were mentioned), the whole country 
set to work to discover the causes why Captain Hall had visited the 
United States, and why he had published his book. 

I have heard it said with as much precision and gravity as if the 
statement had been conveyed by an official report, that Captain 


Hall had been sent out by the British government expressly for the 
purpose of checking the growing admiration of England for the 
government of the United States, — that it was by a commission 
from the treasury he had come, and that it was only in obedience 
to orders that he had found anything to object to. 

I do not give this as the gossip of a coterie ; I am persuaded that 
it is the belief of a very considerable portion of the country. So 
deep is the conviction of this singular people that they cannot be 
seen without being admired, that they will not admit the possibility 
that any one should honestly and sincerely find aught to disapprove 
in them or their country. 

The American Reviews are, many of them, I believe, well known 
in England; I need not, therefore, quote them here, but I some- 
times wondered that they, none of them, ever thought of translating 
Obadiah's curse into classic American ; if they had done so, on 
placing (he, Basil Hall,) between brackets, instead of (he, Obadiah,) 
it would have saved them a world of trouble. 

I can hardly describe the curiosity with which I sat down at 
length to peruse these tremendous volumes ; still less can I do 
justice to my surprise at their contents. To say that I found not 
one exaggerated statement throughout the work is by no means 
saying enough. It is impossible for any one who knows the 
country not to see that Captain Hall earnestly sought out things to 
admire and commend. When he praises, it is with evident pleas- 
ure ; and when he finds fault, it is with evident reluctance and 
restraint, excepting where motives purely patriotic urge him to 
state roundly what it is for the benefit of his country should be 

In fact, Captain Hall saw the country to the greatest possible 
advantage. Furnished, of course, with letters of introduction to 
the most distinguished individuals, and with the still more influen- 
tial recommendation of his own reputation, he was received in full 
drawing-room style and state from one end of the Union to the 
other. He saw the country in full dress, and had little or no 
opportunity of judging of it unhouselled, unanointed, unannealed, 
with all its imperfections on its head, as I and my family too 
often had. 

Captain Hall had certainly excellent opportunities of making 
himself acquainted with the form of the government and the laws ; 


and of receiving, moreover, the best oral commentary upon them, 
in conversation with the most distinguished citizens. Of these 
opportunities he made excellent use ; nothing important met his eye 
which did not receive that sort of analytical attention which an 
experienced and philosophical traveller alone can give. This has 
made his volumes highly interesting and valuable ; but I am deeply 
persuaded, that were a man of equal penetration to visit the United 
States with no other means of becoming acquainted with the national 
character than the ordinary working-day intercourse of life, he 
would conceive an infinitely lower idea of the moral atmosphere of 
the country than Captain Hall appears to have done ; and the inter- 
nal conviction on my mind is strong, that if Captain Hall had not 
placed a firm restraint on himself, he must have given expression to 
far deeper indignation than any he has uttered against many points 
in the American character, with which he shows from other circum- 
stances that he was well acquainted. His rule appears to have 
been to state just so much of the truth as would leave on the mind 
of his readers a correct impression, at the least cost of pain to the 
sensitive folks he was writing about. He states his own opinions 
and feelings, and leaves it to be inferred that he has good grounds 
for adopting them ; but he spares the Americans the bitterness 
which a detail of the circumstances would have produced. 

If any one chooses to say that some wicked antipathy to twelve 
millions of strangers is the origin of my opinion, I must bear it ; and 
were the question one of mere idle speculation, I certainly would not 
court the abuse I must meet for stating it. But it is not so. 

The candor which he expresses, and evidently feels, they mistake 
for irony, or totally distrust ; his unwillingness to give pain to per- 
sons from whom he has received kindness, they scornfully reject as 
affectation, and although they must know right well, in their own 
secret hearts, how infinitely more they lay at his mercy than he has 
chosen to betray ; they pretend, even to themselves, that he has 
exaggerated the bad points of their character and institutions ; 
whereas, the truth is, that he has let them off with a degree of 
tenderness which may be quite suitable for him to exercise, how- 
ever little merited ; while, at the same time, he has most industri- 
ously magnified their merits, whenever he could possibly find any- 
thing favorable. 




In a remote part of the North lived a man and his sister, who 
had never seen a human being. Seldom, if ever, had the man 
any cause to go from home ; for, as his wants demanded food, he 
had only to go a little distance from the lodge, and there, in some 
particular spot, place his arrows, with their barbs in the ground. 
Telling his sister where they had been placed, every morning she 
would go in search, and never fail of finding each stuck through 
the heart of a deer. She had then only to drag them into the 
lodge and prepare their food. Thus she lived till she attained 
womanhood, when one day her brother, whose name was Iamo, said 
to her : " Sister, the time is at hand when you will be ill. Listen to 
my advice. If you do not, it will probably be the cause of my death. 
Take the implements with which we kindle our fires. Go some 
distance from our lodge and build a separate fire. When you are 
in want of food, I will tell you where to find it. You must cook 
for yourself, and I will for myself. When you are ill, do not 
attempt to come near the lodge, or bring any of the utensils you 
use. Be sure always to fasten to your belt the implements you 
need, for you do not know when the time will come. As for 
myself, I must do the best I can." His sister promised to obey 
him in all he had said. 

Shortly after, her brother had cause to go from home. She was 
alone in her lodge, combing her hair. She had just untied the belt 
to which the implements were fastened, when suddenly the event, 
to which her brother had alluded, occurred. She ran out of the 
lodge, but in her haste forgot the belt. Afraid to return, she stood 
for some time thinking. Finally, she decided to enter the lodge 
and get it. For, thought she, my brother is not at home, and I 
will stay but a moment to catch hold of it. She went back. Run- 
ning in suddenly, she caught hold of it, and was coming out when 
her brother came in sight. He knew what was the matter. " Oh," 
he said, " did I not tell you to take care ? But now you have killed 
me." She was going on her way, but her brother said to her, 


" What can you do there now ? The accident has happened. Go 
in, and stay where you have always stayed. And what will become 
of you ? You have killed me." 

He then laid aside his hunting-dress and accoutrements, and soon 
after both his feet began to turn black, so that he could not move. 
Still he directed his sister where to place the arrows, that she might 
always have food. The inflammation continued to increase, and had 
now reached his first rib ; and he said : " Sister, my end is near. You 
must do as I tell you. You see my medicine-sack, and my war- 
club tied to it. It contains all my medicines, and my war-plumes, 
and my paints of all colors. As soon as the inflammation reaches my 
breast, you will take my war-club. It has a sharp point, and you 
will cut off my head. When it is free from my body, take it, place 
its neck in the sack, which you must open at one end. Then hang 
it up in its former place. Do not forget my bow and arrows. One 
of the last you will take to procure food. The remainder, tie in 
my sack, and then hang it up, so that I can look towards the door. 
Now and then I will speak to you, but not often." His sister again 
promised to obey. 

In a little time his breast was affected. "Now," said he, "take 
the club and strike off my head." She was afraid, but he told her 
to muster courage. " Strike," said he, and a smile was on his face. 
Mustering all her courage, she gave the blow and cut off the head. 
" Now," said the head, " place me where I told you." And fear- 
fully she obeyed it in all its commands. Retaining its animation, 
it looked around the lodge as usual, and it would command its sister 
to go in such places as it thought would procure for her the flesh of 
different animals she needed. One day the head said : " The time 
is not distant when I shall be freed from this situation, and I shall 
have to undergo many sore evils. So the superior manito decrees, 
and I must bear all patiently." In this situation we must leave the 

In a certain part of the country was a village inhabited by a 
numerous and warlike band of Indians. In this village was a 
family of ten young men — brothers. It was in the spring of the 
year that the youngest of these blackened his face and fasted. His 
dreams were propitious. Having ended his fast, he went secretly 
for his brothers at night, so that none in the village could overhear 
or find out the direction they intended to go. Though their drum 


was heard, yet that was a common occurrence. Having ended the 
usual formalities, he told how favorable his dreams were, and that 
he had called them together to know if they would accompany him 
in a war excursion. They all answered they would. The third 
brother from the eldest, noted for his oddities, coming up with 
his war-club when his brother had ceased speaking, jumped up. 
" Yes," said he, " I will go, and this will be the way I will treat 
those I am going to fight ; " and he struck the post in the centre of 
the lodge, and gave a yell. The others spoke to him, saying : 
" Slow, slow, Mudjikewis, when you are in other people's lodges." 
So he sat down. Then, in turn, they took the drum, and sang their 
songs, and closed with a feast. The youngest told them not to 
whisper their intention to their wives, but secretly to prepare for 
their journey. They all promised obedience, and. Mudjikewis was 
the first to say so. 

The time for their departure drew near. Word was given to 
assemble on a certain night, when they would depart immediately. 
Mudjikewis was loud in his demands for his moccasins. Several 
times his wife asked him the reason. " Besides," said she, " you 
have a good pair on." "Quick, quick," said he, "since you must 
know, we are going on a war excursion ; so be quick." He thus 
revealed the secret. That night they met and started. The snow 
was on the ground, and they travelled all night, lest others should 
follow them. When it was daylight, the leader took snow and 
made a ball of it, then tossing it into the air, he said : " It was in 
this way I saw snow fall in a dream, so that I could not be tracked." 
And he told them to keep close to each other for fear of losing 
themselves, as the snow began to fall in very large flakes. Near as 
they walked, it was with difficulty they could see each other. The 
snow continued falling all that day and the following night, so it 
was impossible to track them. 

They had now walked for several days, and Mudjikewis was 
always in the rear. One day, running suddenly forward, he gave 
the saw-saw-quan, 1 and struck a tree with his war-club, and it broke 
into pieces as if struck with lightning. " Brothers," said he, " this 
will be the way I will serve those we are going to fight." The 
leader answered, " Slow, slow, Mudjikewis, the one I lead you to is 

1 War-wlioop. 


not to be thought of so lightly." Again he fell back and thought 
to himself : " What ! what ! who can this be he is leading us to ? " 
He felt fearful and was silent. Day after clay they travelled on, 
till they came to an extensive plain, on the borders of which human 
bones were bleaching in the sun. The leader spoke : " They are 
the bones of those who have gone before us. None has ever yet 
returned to tell the sad tale of their fate." Again Mudjikewis 
became restless, and, running forward, gave the accustomed yell. 
Advancing to a large rock which stood above the ground, he struck 
it, and it fell to pieces. " See, brothers," said he, " thus will I 
treat those whom we are going to fight." " Still, still," once more 
said the leader ; " he to whom I am leading you is not to be com- 
pared to the rock." 

Mudjikewis fell back thoughtful, saying to himself : " I wonder 
who this can be that he is going to attack ; " and he was afraid. 
Still they continued to see the remains of former warriors, who had 
been to the place where they were now going, some of whom had 
retreated as far back as the place where they first saw the bones, 
beyond which no one had ever escaped. At last they came to a 
piece of rising ground, from which they plainly distinguished, 
sleeping on a distant mountain, a mammoth bear. 

The distance between them was very great, but the size of the 
animal caused him to be plainly seen. " There," said the leader, 
" it is he to whom I am leading you ; here our troubles will com- 
mence, for he is a mishemokwa and a manito. It is he who has 
that we prize so dearly (i.e. wampum), to obtain which, the war- 
riors whose bones we saw, sacrificed their lives. You must not 
be fearful ; be manly. We shall find him asleep." Then the 
leader went forward and touched the belt around the animal's neck. 
" This," said he, " is what we must get. It contains the wampum." 
Then they requested the eldest to try and slip the belt over the 
bear's head, who appeared to be fast asleep, as he was not in the 
least disturbed by the attempt to obtain the belt. All their efforts 
were in vain, till it came to the one next the youngest. He tried, 
and the belt moved nearly over the monster's head, but he could 
get it no farther. Then the youngest one, and the leader, made his 
attempt, and succeeded. Placing it on the back of the oldest, he 
said, " Now we must run," and off they started. When one became 
fatigued with its weight, another would relieve him. Thus they 


ran till they had passed the bones of all former warriors, and were 
some distance beyond, when, looking back, they saw the monster 
slowly rising. He stood some time before he missed his wampum. 
Soon they heard his tremendous howl, like distant thunder, slowly 
filling all the sky ; and then they heard him speak and say, " Who 
can it be that has dared to steal my wampum ? earth is not so 
large but that I can find them ; " and he descended from the hill in 
pursuit. As if convulsed, the earth shook with every jump he 
made. Very soon he approached the party. They, however, kept 
the belt, exchanging it from one to another, and encouraging each 
other ; but he gained on them fast. " Brothers," said the leader, 
" has never any one of you, when fasting, dreamed of some friendly 
spirit who would aid you as a guardian ? " A dead silence followed. 
"Well," said he, "fasting, I dreamed of being in danger of instant 
death, when I saw a small lodge, with smoke curling from its top. 
An old man lived in it, and I dreamed he helped me ; and may it 
be verified soon," he said, running forward and giving the peculiar 
yell, and a howl as if the sounds came from the depths of his 
stomach, and what is called checaiidum. Getting upon a piece of 
rising ground, behold ! a lodge, with smoke curling from its top, 
appeared. This gave them all new strength, and they ran forward 
and entered it. The leader spoke to the old man who sat in the 
lodge, saying, " Nemesho, help us ; we claim your protection, for 
the great bear will kill us." " Sit down and eat, my grandchil- 
dren," said the old man. " Who is a great manito ? " said he. 
" There is none but me ; but let me look," and he opened the door 
of the lodge, when, lo ! at a little distance he saw the enraged 
animal coming on, with slow but powerful leaps. Pie closed the 
door. " Yes," said he, " he is indeed a great manito : my grand- 
children, you will be the cause of my losing my life ; you asked my 
protection, and I granted it ; so now, come what may, I will protect 
you. When the bear arrives at the door, you must run out of the 
other door of the lodge." Then putting his hand to the side of the 
lodge where he sat, he brought out a bag which he opened. Taking 
out two small black dogs, he placed them before him. " These are 
the ones I use when I fight," said he ; and he commenced patting 
with both hands the sides of one of them, and he began to swell 
out, so that he soon filled the lodge by his bulk ; and he had great 
strong teeth. When he attained his full size he growled, and from 


that moment, as from instinct, he jumped out at the door and met 
the bear, who in another leap would have reached the lodge. A 
terrible combat ensued. The skies rang with the howls of the 
fierce monsters. The remaining dog soon took the field. The 
brothers, at the onset, took the advice of the old man, and escaped 
through the opposite side of the lodge. They had not proceeded 
far before they heard the dying cry of one of the dogs, and soon 
after of the other. " Well," said the leader, " the old man will 
share their fate : so run ; he will soon be after us." They started 
with fresh vigor, for they had received food from the old man : but 
very soon the bear came in sight, and again was fast gaining upon 
them. Again the leader asked the brothers if they could do nothing 
for their safety. All were silent. The leader, running forward, 
did as before. " I dreamed," he cried, " that, being in great trouble, 
an old man helped me who was a manito ; we shall soon see his 
lodge." Taking courage, they still went on. After going a short 
distance they saw the lodge of the old manito. They entered im- 
mediately and claimed his protection, telling him a manito was 
after them. The old man, setting meat before them, said : " Eat ! 
who is a manito ? there is no manito but me ; there is none whom 
I fear ; " and the earth trembled as the monster advanced. The 
old man opened the door and saw him coming. He shut it slowly, 
and said : " Yes, my grandchildren, you have brought trouble upon 
me." Procuring his medicine-sack, he took out his small war-clubs 
of black stone, and told the young men to run through the other 
side of the lodge. As he handled the clubs, they became very large, 
and the old man stepped out just as the bear reached the door. 
Then striking him with one of the clubs, it broke in pieces ; the 
bear stumbled. Renewing the attempt with the other war-club, 
that also was broken, but the bear fell senseless. Each blow the 
old man gave him sounded like a clap of thunder, and the howls of 
the bear ran along till they filled the heavens. 

The young men had now run some distance, when they looked 
back. They could see that the bear was recovering from the blows. 
First he moved his paws, and soon they saw him rise on his feet. 
The old man shared the fate of the first, for they now heard his cries 
as he was torn in pieces. Again the monster was in pursuit, and fast 
overtaking them. Not yet discouraged, the young men kept on their 
way ; but the bear was now so close, that the leader once more ap- 


plied to his brothers, but they could do nothing. " Well," said he, 
" my dreams will soon be exhausted ; after this I have but one more." 
He advanced, invoking his guardian spirit to aid him. " Once," 
said he, " J dreamed that, being sorely pressed, I came to a large 
lake, on the shore of which was a canoe, partly out of water, having 
ten paddles all in readiness. Do not fear," he cried, " we shall 
soon get it." And so it was, even as he had said. Coming to the lake, 
they saw the canoe with ten paddles, and immediately they embarked. 
Scarcely had they reached the centre of the lake, when they saw 
the bear arrive at its borders. Lifting himself on his hind legs, he 
looked all around. Then he waded into the water ; then losing his 
footing he turned back, and commenced making the circuit of the 
lake. Meantime the party remained stationary in the centre to 
watch his movements. He travelled all around, till at last he came 
to the place from whence he started. Then he commenced drinking 
up the water, and they saw the current fast setting in towards his 
open mouth. The leader encouraged them to paddle hard for the 
opposite shore. When only a short distance from land, the current 
had increased so much, that they were drawn back by it, and all 
their efforts to reach it were in vain. 

Then the leader again spoke, telling them to meet their fates man- 
fully. " Now is the time, Mudjikewis," said he, " to show your 
prowess. Take courage and sit at the bow of the canoe ; and when 
it approaches his mouth, try what effect your club will have on his 
head." He obeyed, and stood ready to give the blow ; while the 
leader, who steered, directed the canoe for the open mouth of the 

Rapidly advancing, they were just about to enter his mouth, when 
Mudjikewis struck him a tremendous blow on the head, and gave the 
saw-saw-quan. The bear's limbs doubled under him, and he fell, 
stunned by the blow. But before Mudjikewis could renew it, the 
monster disgorged all the water he had drank, with a force which 
sent the canoe with great velocity to the opposite shore. Instantly 
leaving the canoe, again they fled, and on they went till they were 
completely exhausted. The earth again shook, and soon they saw 
the monster hard after them. Their spirits drooped, and they felt dis- 
couraged. The leader exerted himself, by actions and words, to cheer 
them up ; and once more he asked them if they thought of nothing, 
or could do nothing for their rescue ; and, as before, all were silent. 


" Then," he said, " this is the last time I can apply to my guardian 
spirit. Now, if we do not succeed, our fates are decided." He ran 
forward, invoking his spirit with great earnestness, and gave the 
yell. " We shall soon arrive," said he to his brothers, " at the place 
where my last guardian spirit dwells. In him I place great confi- 
dence. Do not, do not be afraid, or your limbs will be fear-bound. 
We shall soon reach his lodge. Run, run," he cried. 

Returning now to Iamo, he had passed all the time in the same 
condition we had left him, the head directing his sister, in order to 
procure food, where to place the magic arrows, and speaking at long 
intervals. One day the sister saw the eyes of the head brighten, as 
if with pleasure. At last it spoke. " Oh, sister," it said, " in what 
a pitiful situation you have been the cause of placing me ! Soon, 
very soon, a party of young men will arrive and apply to me for 
aid ; but alas ! How can I give what I would have done with so 
much pleasure ? Nevertheless, take two arrows, and place them 
where you have been in the habit of placing the others, and have 
meat prepared and cooked before they arrive. When you hear 
them coming and calling on my name, go out and say, ' Alas ! it 
is long ago that an accident befell him. I was the cause of it.' If 
they still come near, ask them in, and set meat before them. And 
now you must follow my directions strictly. When the bear is 
near, go out and meet him. You will take my medicine-sack, bows 
and arrows, and my head. You must then untie the sack, and 
spread out before you my paints of all colors, my war-eagle feathers, 
my tufts of dried hair, and whatever else it contains. As the bear 
approaches, you will take all these articles, one by one, and say to 
him, ' This is my deceased brother's paint,' and so on with all the 
other articles, throwing each of them as far as you can. The vir- 
tues contained in them will cause him to totter ; and, to complete 
his destruction, you will take my head, and that too you will cast as 
far off as you can, crying aloud, ' See, this is my deceased brother's 
head.' He will then fall senseless. By this time the young men 
will have eaten, and you will call them to your assistance. You 
must then cut the carcass into pieces, yes, into small pieces, and 
scatter them to the four winds ; for, unless you do this, he will 
again revive." She promised that all should be done as he said. 
She had only time to prepare the meat, when the voice of the 
leader was heard calling upon Iamo for aid. The woman went out 

620 ' APPENDIX D. 

and said as her brother had directed. But the war party being 
closely pursued, came up to the lodge. She invited them in, and 
placed the meat before them. While they were eating, they heard 
the bear approaching. Untying the medicine-sack and taking the 
head, she had all in readiness for his approach. When he came up 
she did as she had been told ; and, before she had expended the 
paints and feathers, the bear began to totter, but, still advancing, came 
close to the woman. Saying as she was commanded, she then took 
the head, and cast it as far from her as she could. As it rolled 
along the ground, the blood, excited by the feelings of the head in 
this terrible scene, gushed from the nose and mouth. The bear, 
tottering, soon fell with a tremendous noise. Then she cried for 
helf>, and the young men came rushing out, having partially 
regained their strength and spirits. 

Mudjikewis, stepping up, gave a yell and struck him a blow upon 
the head. This he repeated, till it seemed like a mass of brains, 
while the others, as quick as possible, cut him into very small pieces, 
which they then scattered in every direction. While thus employed, 
happening to look around where they had thrown the meat, wonder- 
ful to behold, they saw starting up and running off in every direc- 
tion small black bears, such as are seen at the present day. The 
country was^ soon overspread with these black animals. And it was 
from this monster that the present race of bears derived their origin. 

Having thus overcome their pursuer, they returned to the lodge. 
In the mean time, the woman, gathering the implements she had 
used, and the head, placed them again in the sack. But the head 
did not speak again, probably from its great exertion to overcome 
the monster. 

Having spent so much time and traversed so vast a country 
in their flight, the young men gave up the idea of ever return- 
ing to their own country, and game being plenty, they determined 
to remain where they now were. One day they moved off some 
distance from the lodge for the purpose of hunting, having left the 
wampum with the woman. They were very successful, and amused 
themselves, as all young men do when alone, by talking and jesting 
with each other. One of them spoke and said, " We have all this 
sport to ourselves ; let us go and ask our sister if she will not let us 
bring the head to this place, as it is still alive. It may be pleased 
to hear us talk, and be in our company. In the mean time take food 


to our sister." They went and requested the head. She told them 
to take it, and they took it to their hunting-grounds, and tried to 
amuse it, hut only at times did they see its eyes heam with pleasure. 
One day, while husy in their encampment, they were unexpectedly 
attacked hy unknown Indians. The skirmish was long contested 
and bloody ; many of their foes were slain, but still they were 
thirty to one. The young men fought desperately till they were all 
killed. The attacking party then retreated to a height of ground, 
to muster their men, and to count the number of missing and slain. 
One of their young men had stayed away, and, in endeavoring to 
overtake them, came to the place where the head was hung up. 
Seeing that alone retain animation, he eyed it for some time with 
fear and surprise. However, he took it down and opened the sack, 
and was much pleased to see the beautiful feathers, one of which he 
placed on his head. 

Starting off, it waved gracefully over him till he reached his party, 
when he threw down the head and sack, and told them how he had 
found it, and that the sack was full of paints and feathers. They all 
looked at the head and made sport of it. Numbers of the young 
men took the paint and painted themselves, and one of the party took 
the head by the hair and said : — 

" Look, you ugly thing, and see your paints on the faces of war- 

But the feathers were so beautiful, that numbers of them also 
placed them on their heads. Then again they used all kinds of 
indignity to the head, for which they were in turn repaid by the 
death of those who had used the feathers. Then the chief com- 
manded them to throw away all except the head. " We will see," 
said he, " when we get home, what we can do with it. We will try 
to make it shut its eyes." 

When they reached their homes they took it to the council-lodge, 
and hung it up before the fire, fastening it with raw hide soaked, 
which would shrink and become tightened by the action of the fire. 
" We will then see," they said, " if we cannot make it shut its 

Meantime, for several days, the sister had been waiting for the 
young men to bring back the head ; till, at last, getting impatient, 
she went in search of it. The young men she found lying within 
short distances of each other, dead, and covered with wounds. Vari- 


ous other bodies lay scattered in different directions around them. 
She searched for the head and sack, but they were nowhere to be 
found. She raised her voice and wept, and blackened her face. 
Then she walked in different directions, till she came to the place 
from whence the head had been taken. Then she found the magic 
bow and arrows, where the young men, ignorant of their qualities, 
had left them. She thought to herself that she would find her broth- 
er's head, and came to a piece of rising ground, and there saw some 
of his paints and feathers. These she carefully put up, and hung 
upon the branch of a tree till her return. 

At dusk she arrived at the first lodge of a very extensive village. 
Here she used a charm, common among Indians when they wish to 
meet with a kind reception. On applying to the old man and woman 
of the lodge, she was kindly received. She made known her errand. 
The old man promised to aid her, and told her the head was hung 
up before the council-fire, and that the chiefs of the village, with 
their young men, kept watch over it continually. The former are 
considered as manitoes. She said she only wished to see it, and 
would be satisfied if she could only get to the door of the lodge. She 
knew she had not sufficient power to take it by force. " Come with 
me," said the Indian, "I will take you there." They went, and they 
took their seats near the door. The council-lodge was filled with 
warriors, amusing themselves with games, and constantly keeping up 
a fire to smoke the head, as they said, to make dry meat. They saw 
the head move, and not knowing what to make of it, one spoke and 
said : " Ha ! ha ! It is beginning to feel the effects of the smoke." 
The sister looked up from the door, and her eyes met those of her 
brother, and tears rolled down the cheeks of the head. " Well," 
said the chief, " I thought we would make you do something at last. 
Look ! look at it — shedding tears," said he to those around him ; 
and they all laughed and passed their jokes upon it. The chief, look- 
ing around, and observing the woman, after some time said to the man 
who came with her : "Who have you got there ? I have never seen 
that woman before in our village." " Yes," replied the man, " you 
have seen her ; she is a relation of mine, and seldom goes out. She 
stays at my lodge, and asked me to allow her to come with me to 
this place." In the centre of the lodge sat one of those young men 
who are always forward, and fond of boasting and displaying them- 
selves before others. " Why," said he, " I have seen her often, and 


it is to this lodge I go almost every night to court her." All the 
others laughed and continued their games. The young man did 
not know he was telling a lie to the woman's advantage, who by that 
means escaped. 

She returned to the man's lodge, and immediately set out for her 
own country. Coming to the spot where the bodies of her adopted 
brothers lay, she placed them together, their feet toward the east. 
Then taking an axe which she had, she cast it up into the air, cry- 
ing out, " Brothers, get up from under it, or it will fall on you." 
This she repeated three times, and the third time the brothers all 
arose and stood on their feet. 

Mudjikewis commenced rubbing his eyes and stretching himself. 
"Why," said he, " I have overslept myself." "No, indeed," said 
one of the others, " do you not know we were all killed, and that it 
is our sister who has brought us to life ? " The young men took the 
bodies of their enemies and burned them. Soon after, the woman 
went to procure wives for them, in a distant country, they knew not 
where ; but she returned with ten young women, which she gave to 
the ten young men, beginning with the eldest. Mudjikewis stepped 
to and fro, uneasy lest he should not get the one he liked. But he 
was not disappointed, for she fell to his lot. And they were well 
matched, for she was a female magician. They then all moved into 
a very large lodge, and their sister told them that the women must 
now take turns in going to her brother's head every night, trying to 
untie it. They all said they would do so with pleasure. The eldest 
made the first attempt, and with a rushing noise she fled through the 

Toward daylight she returned. She had been unsuccessful, as she 
succeeded in untying only one of the knots. All took their turns 
regularly, and each one succeeded in untying only one knot each 
time. But when the youngest went, she commenced the work as 
soon as she reached the lodge ; although it had always been occu- 
pied, still the Indians never could see any one. For ten nights now, 
the smoke had not ascended, but filled the lodge and drove them 
out. This last night they were all driven out, and the young woman 
carried off the head. 

The young people and the sister heard the young woman coming 
high through the air, and they heard her saying : " Prepare the body 
of our brother." And as soon as they heard it, they went to a small 


lodge where the black body of Iamo lay. His sister commenced 
cutting the neck part, from which the neck had been severed. She 
cut so deep as to cause it to bleed ; and the others who were present, 
by rubbing the body and applying medicines, expelled the blackness. 
In the mean time the one who brought it, by cutting the neck of the 
head, caused that also to bleed. 

As soon as she arrived, they placed that close to the body, and, by 
aid of medicines and various other means, succeeded in restoring 
Iamo to all his former beauty and manliness. All rejoiced in the 
happy termination of their troubles, and they had spent some time 
joyfully together, when Iamo said : " Now I will divide the wam- 
pum ; " and getting the belt which contained it, he commenced with 
the eldest, giving it in equal portions. But the youngest got the 
most splendid and beautiful, as the bottom of the belt held the rich' 
est and rarest. 

They were told that, since they had all once died, and were re- 
stored to life, they were no longer mortal, but spirits, and they were 
assigned different stations in the invisible world. Only Mudjikewis's 
place was, however, named. He was to direct the west wind, hence 
generally called Kebeyun, there to remain forever. They were com- 
manded, as they had it in their power, to do good to the inhabitants 
of the earth, and, forgetting their sufferings in procuring the wam- 
pum, to give all things with a liberal hand. And they were also com- 
manded that it should also be held by them sacred ; those grains or 
shells of the pale hue to be emblematic of peace, while those of the 
darker hue would lead to evil and war. 

The spirits then, amid songs and shouts, took their flight to their 
respective abodes on high ; while Iamo, with his sister Iamoqua, 
descended into the depths below. 












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